An Open Letter To SEIA: Let Us Help
First of all, let me say how much I admire the work you do. You are facing an uphill battle on the political front, trying to convince an intransigent Congress of the value of solar to the U.S. economy and why they should extend the ITC beyond 2016. I do not envy you the pain, suffering and frustration of dealing with the difficult situation, and I wish you godspeed.
I also recognize you are understaffed and underfunded, especially given the Herculean tasks you have to accomplish. You have a group of extremely talented staff members (Rhone Resch, Ken Johnson and Tom Kimbis are the ones I’ve worked with most frequently, but there are many more I’ve worked with tangentially who have been immensely helpful).
And your corporate backers are phenomenal — the generous sponsors do a great job of representing the solar industry around the world.
Here’s the problem as I see it: Right now, the primary movers behind you are these corporations, which skews what SEIA does toward their interests, which sometimes don’t coincide with the overall interests of solar installers. And at the moment, there are at least 5,000 local and regional solar installers just waiting to get into the trenches and fight alongside you.
But many of them either don’t know SEIA exists, don’t know what it does if they have heard of it, or take a look at the board of directors and find few of their kind represented. You have some great installers on the board — George Hershman of Swinerton Renewable Energy, Arno Harris of Recurrent Energy and Tony Clifford of Standard Solar jump out — but those are bigger companies with the resources necessary to have an outsized impact on policy.
What about the rest of us?
Think about what you could do with a 5,000-strong army. Think about the influence you could really wield in D.C. if each of those installers were members of SEIA (I’ve seen it happen in other industries with far less passionate people than the solar clan). Think about what could be done if those 5,000 members encouraged their employees to participate. Even if the companies only have five employees each, that’s an army of 25,000. And when those people all get their family and friends involved in fighting for solar, well, the mind boggles.
It would take some out-of-the-box thinking. It would take volunteers to build local and regional support for SEIA. It would mean legwork. It would mean traveling around the country to talk face-to-face to solar installers.
But oh, what an amazing result could come from it.
So open the doors a crack. Let more of us average Joes and Janes in. We want to help you spread the solar gospel — if only you will let us.
With deepest love and admiration,