Who Has The Best Job In Solar? Bet It’s Not You

  • Published on May 9th, 2014

By Chet Henry, Special To RGB

Close your eyes for a moment and picture the perfect job in solar.

You’d talk solar all day and all night. You’d work with some of the most innovative companies in the solar world. You’d fly around the country — first class, of course — to attend solar ribbon cuttings.

Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Assocation (SEIA). Why does me make more than double what his SEPA counterpart Julia Hamm make? Inquiring minds want to know.You receive a salary of $786,603, paid for (in part) by the dues of average installers, and you live in a swanky D.C. suburb in a house powered by solar.

Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it? Well, it’s certainly the kind of job dreams are made of, and one man in solar actually has this job. Any guesses who?

Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Assocation (SEIA). Why does me make more than double what his SEPA counterpart Julia Hamm make? Inquiring minds want to know.If you guessed Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (aka SEIA), come on down — you’ve won the Carnac the Magnificent Memorial Award.

Resch commanded a salary of more than $786,603 in 2012. His package also includes guaranteed first-class travel to solar events and a gym membership (with all that traveling, it’s harder to stay in shape than one might think).

For kicks (yeah, I’m kind of a public docs geek), I took a look at the publicly filed Form 990s required by law for non-profits. For 2012 (the last year all the information was available), only two energy-related organizations paid their presidents more handsomely than Resch: the Edison Electric Institute (which is more than nine times larger than SEIA by revenues and represents every investor owned utility in the country) and the National Mining Association (which is three times larger than SEIA and represents the big coal interests).

For an organization that is supposed to be fighting conventional energy interests in the halls of Congress (state solar advocacy is diversified among many different groups), it rubs me the wrong way to see so much of our dues tied up in one man’s salary. Personally, I’d prefer some of that money go to fighting for the industry — and I don’t think I’m the only one.

There’s an even deeper problem within the solar industry that could hurt us in one of our fastest-growing constituencies and leading buyer of solar: women. Rhone’s counterpart at the Solar Electric Power Association (aka SEPA) is a woman named Julia Hamm. She also travels around the country selling solar. She makes it to as many ribbon-cutting ceremonies as Resch — and the two of them co-host Solar Power International together, which makes them equals, right?

Well Hamm makes less than half of what Resch makes, taking home $286,403. For those of you scoring at home, that’s actually worse than most American women who (say it together with me) make 23% less than men doing the same work. Resch makes 175% more than what Hamm makes. How on earth is that even possible? Is Resch more than twice as good as Hamm? Can someone even argue that with a straight face?

There are nine staffers listed in the 990 form for SEIA, three of whom are women. On average, Rhone makes more than three times their annual salaries. Can anyone explain that pay disparity?   I’m not sure why SEIA made the decision to reward Resch so handsomely when so many other comparable associations don’t make anywhere near as much as he does.

But when the president of an association makes more in a year than many of the entire companies he represents, it raises serious questions. SEIA: are you ready to answer them?

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