Editor’s Note: Solar Power World is also a member of SEIA and welcomes our friends at Solar Marketing Group to the fold. To paraphrase LeBron James, it’s about darn time — and it’s long past time for the rest of you to join. Go do it now.
By Carter Lavin
At Solar Power International in Chicago, you may have noticed that the solar industry consists of an amazing array of types and sizes of companies. At Solar Marketing Group, I am lucky to get to work with companies that run the gamut of
the solar space and while these companies have their own unique needs, one thread connects us all: We all benefit from growing the amount of solar installed. The industry’s growth comes from a lot of different things, but all of these factors can be spurred or thwarted by political action (or inaction, as the case may be).
Like it or not, officials at all levels of government can seriously affect solar businesses so we must all work together to protect the industry from harmful policies and to advocate for beneficial ones. By building our political power, we can ensure a favorable policy climate which will allow the solar industry to continue its meteoric rise in the U.S. That is why this week we at Solar Marketing Group joined the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA): to support their solar advocacy and grow the industry.
Although we are a marketing agency that serves solar companies and will (probably) never apply for the Investment Tax Credit, a SunShot Grant or go through a streamlined permitting process for a solar project, we still benefit from the work SEIA and its state-level counterparts do to enact these programs because they grow the industry. This applies to our solar company as much as it applies to yours. So while there might not be a policy that will directly benefit your company, your solar business will be better off with strong advocacy in the halls of power across the county.
Policy opportunities and threats like ALEC’s attempts to destroy Renewable Portfolio Standards crop up all the time, and SEIA and its counterparts track them all. They build relationships with decision makers, educate them and nudge them in the right direction to protect solar policy gains and go on the offensive. Most solar companies don’t have the time to do all of that, and although it’s easier to throw up your hands in the face of these changes and hope for the best, ignoring this battlefield just cedes it to the competition.
And it takes more than just tracking policy to make changes. Advocacy groups like SEIA organize the targeted, coherent and loud actions that are needed to have the message sink in for elected officials. Effective advocacy groups press policy makers through organizing activities like calling campaigns, lobby days, rallies, educational briefings and letters to the editor to push back against negative press about the industry. They try to be everywhere because the political battlefield is everywhere. And they can only do it if solar companies like yours and ours rally along with them.
Some solar companies are still on the bench because they don’t feel like their issue is being covered by these groups. But trade groups represent their members, so your issue will continue to be overlooked unless you join. So if you don’t feel like your issues are covered yet, get more involved in the group — run for the board of directors, start a subcommittee, lead a lobby day: Do something and you will be the trim tab that moves the advocacy group and the industry.
Politics is a rough sport. It’s messy, the rules keep changing, and we are competing with industries that have been at this for decades and have billions of dollars at their disposal. We can’t outspend our competition, but we can be better organized, more unified and more strategic than they are. We have public opinion and environmental necessity on our side but to translate that into policy wins like extending the ITC beyond 2016, we need strong solar advocacy groups like SEIA. That is why we at Solar Marketing Group joined, and we hope you do too.
Carter Lavin is Solar Marketing Group’s business development manager and helps renewable energy companies analyze the market, articulate their messages and connect with their targeted audiences to achieve their marketing and communications goals.