Politics is hugely important to the renewable energy industry. Above all else, our industry needs stable policy. Being a small businesses, it’s hard to keep up on the very industry-specific policies, even though these policies are very important for your businesses. This is where we see audio content and interviews to be very powerful and useful to the HeatSpring community and politics is a great way to use HeatSpring TV.

Everyone has questions about politics and wants to keep up to date, so I reached to Stephen Lacey, a report for Climate Progress who loves in Washington DC and is very connected to the the politics and policies of renewable energy.

I wanted to get his opinion on a few things.

  1. The additude and political climate around Solyndra and Evergreen
  2. The hugest push lately is jobs. The solar industry is creating thousands of jobs, how is this contrasting with point 1.
  3. Small guys vs large guys. How can small contractors can go up again solar companies that have $500 million in cash.
  4. Being in DC, where he thinks federal policies are going and what he’s excited about.

After concluding our conversation (you can watch or listen to the full interview below with annotated time stamps) here are the points that have really stuck with me.

The conclusions on the future of renewable energy.

  1. The worst-case scenario doesn’t seem bad anymore. Our industry has enough momentum that a full scale government scalback will not happen. It will be bumping but we’ll probably be able to ride out.
  2. The incremental improvements, especially in the solar PV businesses, are adding up to huge cost savings that is further driving growth.
  3. There’s a lack of support on that we can count on from the federal government and this will mean that the role of state and regional governments will continue to be high. What does this mean for you? You can have an impact on your industry developing by being involved in local and state government.
  4. The day-to-day news might sound bad but the outlook is continuing to look amazing. Solar is the fastest growing industry in the US, it has a huge benefit to the domestic economy as $.73 of each dollar spent on solar stays in the US, the industry is a net exporter, costs are coming down extremely quickly and it’s creating tens of thousands of jobs.
  5. There is still a lot of push back with some federal politicians challenging whether green jobs actually exist of not. We need to start collecting stories of small businesses creating jobs with politicians so they understand.

Here’s is the video interview. Note, the video on my side, the left side, stops around 3 minutes due to internet difficulties. However, the audio stays good the whole time which is why I decided to post it. If you’d like to download the episode as an MP3 and listen at another time, you can download it on iTunes at HeatSpring TV.

The interview was 26 minutes long.

[1:44] How is the climate in DC right now for the renewable energy industry given Evergreen and Solyndra and all the talk is about creation? How is this different between the additudes of the industry on the state level?

[2:15] How are you combating misleading reports and combating negative attitutes around the ARRA act, and the loan guarantee program?

[2:45] How are groups countering politicans that are asking “where are the green jobs?”

[3:10] The feeling toward the loan guarantee program, and the treasury grant program. Are they being effective?

[4:05] Do you think the Solyndra and Evergreen news is getting a lot negative press because of them losing green jobs or because its hard to find symbols where a lot of jobs are created in one place?

[4:40] We discussed how the debate is becoming super political due to the election year cycle. Then Stephen discussed how the GOP is using the scandel to say that the whole loan guantee program doesn’t work, when it in it fact does and Solyndra was only 2% of the entire portfolio.

[5:15] How clean energy still has a huge amount of bi-partisan support and how that is being covered up during the election year.

[6:00] Do you think the perception of the cleantech industry in DC will be reversed? Or the issue is simply politics and the facts that are presented about real job growth do not matter?

[8:00] Has the industry reached a tipping point? Is it possible for pushback to completely shut down the industry again, like in the 70s? Have enough jobs been created, enough state level political report been created, and investment happened that the trend will not reverse again?

Can small businesses feel comfindent investing in this industry or can it go away again?

[8:55] The value of the finance industry backing the solar industry.

[10:00] Stephen discussed how he feels about the response, or lack of response, from national level renewable energy industry associations on pushing back on the green jobs issue.

[10:30] Why we should be rallying people in the state and local level about job creation and telling their stories to politicians.

[11:30] Why do you think organizations have not been pushing back on the federal level? While they are very active on the state level.

[14:00] The impact of research on the industy and providing metrics on public vs private dollars invested, trade balance issues, and tax revenue created the new industry. SEIA showed a study that shows the solar industry is a net exported of 1/4 billion dollar and $.73 stays in the US for every dollar spent in the solar industry.

[15:10] There’s been a few solar companies in the industry that together have raised over a billion dollars. This is good for the industry, as the more solar, the more roofs covered, will make it cheaper. At the same time, how are the small companies going to compete with a company that has raised $500 million dollars?

[Stephen short answer: The drum beat of news is making it seem like there’s a lot of consolidation, while studies from California are showing that competition is increasing, not decreasing]

[17:45] We discussed how installation is such a local game that you’re still going to see a level of fragmentation. The larger companies will continue to grow but that doesn’t mean they’re going to crowd out the small guys.

[18:45] You talk with a lot of people and are living in DC, what are you hoping for? What is the your best case scenario and outlock for the industry in the next 4 years in your opinion?

[Stephen’s Answer: He hopes the role of PACE financing at the state and local level will increase, he doesn’t believe we’re going to see a whole lot from the federal government or see a national renewable energy standard.]

[20:00] The impact the extension of the treasury grant program will have on the industry and why we really need it.

[20:45] Have you seen an interesting product or business models that have really caught your eye?

[21:45] The imapct of point of sale financing systems in solar and why purchasing renewable energy will be like financing a vehicle.

You can contact Stephen at slacey@americaprogress.org or see his stories at Climate Progress