Inc.

Immigration. Trade. Health care. Taxes.

Policy instability has hit an historic peak, challenging any growth-minded founder...Yet with agility and resilience, the Inc. 500 are threading through the chaos

Jan Willem van der Werff is reeling from his queasy ride on the “solar coaster.”

That’s the insider nickname for the solar energy industry, which—while surging—remains vulnerable to the whims of policy and trade. Van der Werff is CEO of Ecolibrium Solar (No. 443 on the 2017 Inc. 500), a $27.2 million maker of hardware that connects sunlight-absorbing panels to roofs. In 2015, companies like his, which had packed their production schedules to take advantage of an expiring tax credit, found their timelines completely upended when Congress unexpectedly extended that credit by five years.

Then came President Trump’s swerve from renewables toward coal. Another worry is the new administration’s attitude about the kinds of previously unsuccessful trade cases filed by domestic panel producers against low-cost foreign competitors. Tariffs could make solar a more expensive option. “You are starting to see speculative behavior,” says van der Werff. “People hoard panels [because] maybe the prices are going to go up—which

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