This month’s veteran is Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of SEIA. As you probably know, Hopper came on board in her new position at the beginning of 2017; but you may not know that her background in energy goes back much further.
From riding in ambulances, to prosecuting sex crimes, to falling in love with tax law, to divorce law, to energy, Hopper has always let her passions guide her career. Learn more about SEIA’s new leader and how her diverse experiences have made her so well-suited to lead the solar industry in this episode of Ask a Vet.
Here’s a glimpse of what Hopper said, but listen to the full interview to learn more!
How’s the job been so far?
It has been, without a doubt, the most fun I’ve had in a very long time. It is challenging, just in terms of the scope of the issues that we cover. It’s been challenging in that the entire country is figuring out how our new president works, and how best to work along side of him. It has been surprising that we find ourselves in the middle of a trade case—that was not something that I anticipated in January. It has been rewarding in that the industry has taken a position and we have had the privilege of representing it and fighting this case. It has been more fun, more challenging, harder, easier, than I ever thought it would be. I wouldn’t want to do anything unless it was fun and challenging.
You spent lots of time learning about the oil and gas industry when you worked at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. What did you learn that impacted you the most?
The thing that was most impactful to me was understanding the level of expertise that has been developed in that industry over ,literally, a century. And thinking how that expertise can be utilized in other parts of our economy. I spent time in Houston and Louisiana and other parts of our great country, understanding that the oil and gas sector really becomes part of the culture. So it is naive and disrespectful to assume that folks will just ignore that part of their culture. If we’re thinking about how we’re going to transform the economy and our energy mix, we need to understand the values and ideas people in the oil and gas sector bring to the table, and make renewable energy, renewable energy careers and renewable energy technologies consistent and appealing, rather than threatening.
Have you seen anything in your past work or other industries you think solar could learn from?
As a divorce lawyer, one of the things I learned is you’ve got to find agreement on small things first. People aren’t going to come in and solve the biggest problems at the outset. You have to build trust and relationships and accountability. So I’m always looking with our members, or other industries, to see how can we build trust and create relationships so when we get to the really hard stuff we’ll have the kind of communication where we can actually try to solve it.
Check back monthly for a new episode of Ask a Solar Vet, in which editor Kathie Zipp brings you the unique perspectives and insights of those who have spent more than a decade in solar.