CALSSA’s Solar & Storage Worker Lobby Day and Info Fair was held on Aug 21, 2019 in Sacramento, where over 250 members of the solar industry met with over 100 legislators to discuss the future of solar in California. CALSSA’s 6th annual lobbying event populated the Capitol’s North Lawn with solar vendor booths and a technology tent in which talks were given by industry experts. This year, in addition to visiting legislators and their staff in their offices, several meetings were allocated to large hearing rooms to allow each constituent the opportunity to briefly engage their state senators and assemblymembers in a comfortable setting. Legislators and/or their aides listened carefully and asked important questions. CALSSA’s yellow-shirted lobbyists came prepared to defend their industry and announce their new goals.
Sun Light & Power (SLP) Founder and CEO Gary Gerber moderated the discussion for Senator Nancy Skinner’s 9th District. A wide range of local solar industry vendors thanked Senator Skinner for her support and outlined their concerns. They explained that falling prices have dramatically opened up the residential market, which is crucial to maintain growth in the industry. They pointed out that solar is no longer the exclusive domain of the wealthy and battery storage is integral to the industry’s goals. Among their concerns was the recent California State License Board (CSLB) committee vote that portends to limit installations by contractors holding C-46 solar licenses to very small residential systems whenever solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are combined with battery storage. Solar experts explained that arbitrarily limiting the workforce would curb installations, damage the entire industry, and cause further harm to the environment.
SLP’s employee-owners joined with others to meet with District 15 Assemblymember Buffy Wicks. The candid discussion in her office reiterated the solar industry’s extraordinary expertise and excellent safety record. Once again, the alliance between large utilities and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) was identified as the greatest threat to solar in California – and in many other states. Among the refutations to the incredulous claims that only C-10 licensed certified electricians should be permitted to install PV + storage systems, one lobbyist described how she was recently asked by a C-10 certified electrician, to provide him with resources so that he could teach a solar class. He admitted to her that in spite of his electrical training, he knew virtually nothing about solar. Throughout the meeting Assemblymember Wicks’ comments were both engaging and inspiring. Her focused questions suggested she could be a strong ally of the solar industry moving forward.
The Solar & Storage lobbyists took the opportunity to celebrate California’s “one millionth distributed solar system.” CALSSA reported that this milestone has not only made the power grid more resilient and saved rate payers money, it has also prevented the construction of six new natural gas power plants and reduced CO2 emissions by 22 million tons. Moreover, these one million solar “power plants” have reduced smog pollutants by 16,000 tons – the equivalent of removing 3.8 million cars from the road. CALSSA also introduced their new target of building “5 Million Solar and Energy Storage Systems” by 2030.
Solar and storage workers admirably and respectfully lobbied against those who have endeavored to disenfranchise them from the industry they pioneered. They urged their elected representatives to protect the 77,000 strong solar workforce so that they could continue to expand safe PV + storage installations to help California meet its greenhouse gas emissions goals and build a cleaner and more resilient renewable energy future for everyone.
Seamas Brennan is a Blog Contributor, Researcher, and Engineering Admin. Assistant at Sun Light & Power