By Peter Allen
Originally published on SanJoseInside.com
Despite some recent cleantech-bashing, solar is on a winning streak. Peter Allen recounts some of the major victories of 2013 and how solar got its groove back.
By all accounts, 2013 was a banner year for the solar industry in the halls of government and the court of public opinion. Across the country, big utilities launched attacks on policies like net metering to stifle innovation and maintain the profit margins that clean solar energy threatens to undermine. And in the face of multimillion-dollar lobbyist brigades, the solar industry grew up and learned to fight back.
Led by The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), the top rooftop solar companies won battles to preserve net metering in Idaho, Louisiana, Arizona, and California—this despite every effort by the utilities to rig the game, up to and including dark money campaign tactics rarely seen outside of election season.
TASC used public opinion to turn the tide in state houses and utility commissions, where utility money has lined pockets for more than a century. In Arizona, more than 1,000 voters attended the final hearing on a proposal from APS, an event that local reporters described as the largest political rally in state history. More than 30,000 Arizonans wrote the regulator opposing APS’s proposal—in a state with only 18,000 rooftop solar customers! Meanwhile, in California, the solar industry worked with legislators to pass AB 327, a landmark bill that protects net metering and removes the cap on the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
TASC also engaged utilities in the media with a much tougher tone than the solar industry used in the past. Creative tactics including parody songs and viral YouTube videos brought the debate to a broader audience and presented solar’s case in a way that was easily digestible for even the shortest of attention spans. With TASC setting the new tune, the 40-year-old Solar Energy Industries Association (or SEIA) found a new tone in its advocacy.