Features

John Marner – Canadian Solar

Solar GC farms international growth

Prior to joining Canadian Solar, John Marner didn’t know much about solar energy.

Despite this, he soon became the company’s first lawyer to oversee the development, construction and sale of solar farms. In the 11 years since then, he’s rolled out the solar farm business globally, which has allowed Canadian Solar’s manufacturing arm to grow as well.

The senior director and general counsel may have had a steep learning curve, but he managed it by being “fully immersed in the business.”

John Marner | Senior Director and General Counsel | Canadian Solar

John Marner | Senior Director and General Counsel | Canadian Solar

“External counsel can get deep in the legal weeds, but as internal counsel, business objectives need to be kept top of mind,” Marner says. “When I give advice, it needs to be within a context that truly serves the needs of the business.”

Endless potential

Canadian Solar, based in Guelph, Ontario, was founded in 2001 as a manufacturer and installer of solar panels. It now has two umbrellas: solar product manufacturing, sales and equipment solutions, which it houses under the umbrella “Module Systems and Solutions Group,” and the development and construction of solar farms, which it houses under the umbrella, “Energy Group.”

The company expanded into farms after the Ontario provincial government created the Feed-In Tariff program in 2009, which encouraged the use of renewable energy services. When Marner was hired, he was involved in a pilot program that explored the potential of the solar farm business. He, along with a small group of others in the Ontario office, developed a business model for the Canadian market that the company has duplicated around the world.

One of the earliest projects Marner worked on was the construction and sale of eight solar farms to TransCanada Pipelines for $500 million. The agreement was made in 2011 and carried out over the next few years.

“At that time, I was still learning as I went, which was so incredibly nerve-wracking and rewarding at the same time,” Marner says.

Canadian Solar now has farms in over 20 countries, has distributed solar products to over 150 countries and has offices in 26 regions. Much of Marner’s work is focused on mergers and acquisitions. In 2012, Canadian Solar acquired a large portfolio of solar farm projects from SkyPower, another solar energy company, which made Canadian Solar the largest solar farm developer in Canada. He’s also worked on purchase and sale transactions in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Marner frequently traveled for work but now relies on video conferencing for communicating with colleagues, vendors and business partners.

“The thing I enjoy most about my work is also what challenges me the most, and that’s the international aspect of my role,” Marner says. “Video conferencing is great, but there’s no substitute for sitting across the table from someone and having a conversation.”

International IPO

The company is planning to issue an initial public offering in China in 2022 and list the MSS portion of the company on the Science and Technology Innovation Board (the “STAR” Market) of the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

Marner says the IPO wouldn’t be possible without the work done by the energy side of the business.

“One of the primary reasons we’re able to do this IPO for the MSS Group is because of the massive growth in the development and sale of solar farms for Canadian Solar,” he says. “From day one in our little shop in Ontario, it has been a goal of the company to grow the energy business so that it can stand on its own two feet.”

John Marner | Senior Director and General Counsel | Canadian Solar

Marner says achieving this goal has been one of his proudest accomplishments at Canadian Solar.

“My team and I helped develop that business not only in Canada, but all over the world,” he says.

Happy accident

Getting hired at Canadian Solar was a “happy accident,” Marner says.

He and his family were considering moving across the country from Calgary when a former colleague told Marner about an opening he’d heard of at Canadian Solar. Marner was hired as the director of legal services in 2010 and was promoted to his current position six years later.

Much like finding his position at Canadian Solar, Marner says he “fell into the law.” He didn’t grow up wanting to be a lawyer, but before finishing his degree at the University of Calgary, he developed an interest in the legal field. Since earning his law degree from the University of Alberta, he’s worked in house and at firms, having been at FMC Law in Calgary prior to joining Canadian Solar.

While working at firms gave him skills he uses today, he’s found he much prefers being in house counsel.

“I’ve always had an interest in the environment and renewable energy and this role has allowed me to explore that while also helping guide and influence the direction of the company,” Marner says. “I enjoy that the fruits of my labor will have an impact for years to come.”

View this feature in the Vanguard Fall I 2021 Edition here.

Published on: August 17, 2021

regions:

categories:

Showcase your feature on your website with a custom “As Featured in Vanguard” badge that links directly to your article!

Copy and paste this script into your page coding (ideally right before the closing tag) where you want to display our review banner.

Testimonials

The piece highlighting my company, Bob Baker Enterprises, Inc., came out fabulous. Our company is in the new and used car sales and service industry. Everyone was great to work with and extremely professional. They produced a high-quality product and have provided expert assistance and guidance post-production of the article.
– Wade Poulson, General Counsel, Bob Baker Enterprises Inc.
I was honored to be the subject of an article. I enjoy reading Vanguard articles and seeing how other attorneys got to their positions and see their jobs. It's also interesting to see how different law firms partner with the subjects of the articles.
– Henry Marquard, in-house counsel, Stanley Consultants Inc.
As promised in advance, my feature in Vanguard has increased my visibility within the profession and prompted more than a few people I have not communicated with recently to reconnect. One of the Italian law firms I have used in the past is now in the process of interviewing me for an article on their website and tweeting out the feature story. Activity and the number of people connecting with me on LinkedIn has soared, which is great. The Vanguard writers and editorial staff were great to work with—highly professional and made the effort to make the experience both fun and rewarding (they were also respectful of the time pressures and demands all lawyers face). I was very pleased with the experience and the final outcome. Needless to say, I have been very pleased. All in all working with Vanguard has been a very positive experience which generated good publicity for both Shawcor and myself. My sincere thanks.
– Tim Hutzul, General Counsel, ShawCor Ltd.
It was a great honor to be featured in Vanguard Law. Working with every member of the team, from the initial interview with Erin Clark, through production with Victor Martins, writing the article with Taryn Plumb and creating the final content with Dave Gushee, was a true pleasure. Everyone was very professional, enthusiastic and supportive, and their creative approach and positive attitude clearly came through in the final product.
– Kevin C. Rakowski, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel, Compliance with Radian Group Inc.

LATEST EDITION

Fall II 2021

READ NOW

GET VANGUARD IN YOUR INBOX.

  • * We’ll never share your email or info with anyone.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.