Podcast 054: Abigail Ross Hopper – What are the top policy priorities shaping the future of the solar industry?

Innovators and entrepreneurs, listen up. Join in as Abby Hopper, President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association takes us on an insider’s tour of the policies the solar industry is advocating with the new administration, how those policies are shaped, and what a diverse solar industry needs to do to continue growing.

Abby made a lot of really powerful points. Here are a few…

People talk about jobs a lot. That’s great. But I also want entrepreneurs, I want business owners and wealth creation and that’s what I think true diversity looks like.


Batteries are not just going to transform the way that our grid works, but I think they’re going to transform the relationship people have with their own energy usage and their own energy systems in their homes. 


Businesses want certainty, if we know what the rules of the road are we can innovate and experiment and be creative, but you can’t keep changing the rules on us every year


Abby Hopper and Bill Nussey during interview
Abby and Bill during the podcast recording

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Transcript

Bill:

Well, hello, and welcome to all of our friends, family, supporters in the Freeing Energy world. Thanks as always for your time. We really appreciate your sharing your minutes with us. Hopefully, we’re working together to make this transition to clean energy happen even faster.

Bill:

I think today’s guest is going to really put a punctuation mark on this really important topic. 2021 is shaping up to be one of the most consequential years in the history of this industry. Somebody mentioned to me the other day that, apparently, we have a new president and he’s somewhat more focused on this topic than previous presidents. So, that’s a small change. You might have noticed that Texas has lost electricity for a day, and that’s catapulting throughout the news. That’s going to create a lot more awareness of what’s needed in our grid, going forward, and not just in Texas, but for the whole country and the world.

Bill:

I think the other thing that we’re all excited about is, in the last year or so, solar has won the cost war. It’s not universally the cheapest in every situation, but pretty much headed there everywhere. This is the decade of solar. That’s obviously a key part of what we talked about in batteries and this is why I’m so excited about our guest today.

Bill:

A lot of the folks we have are incredibly focused on analyzing and research in the industry, thinking about it, but our guest today is in the middle of it. She is deep in the thick of what’s happening. Every day, pushing this industry forward and is in no small part a reason we’ve made so much progress. So I’m super excited to welcome Abigail Ross Hopper, who is the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, or, as I’m sure everybody knows, we call it SEIA. So Abby, welcome today.

Abby:

Thank you so much for having me. I’m so glad to be here.

Bill:

Tell us a little bit about your story. Did you grow up at three years old, as one of our guests was, and know that you wanted to be solar the moment you went into kindergarten? What was your journey like to get into the industry?

Abby:

Oh my gosh, no. That was not my journey at all. My first job in energy, I didn’t know how electricity worked, other than I turned a light switch. So, I have the opposite story of whoever that person was. I am a lawyer by training. Immediately prior to entering the energy industry, I was a divorce litigator. I feel like I might be the first guests you’ve had that, in addition to lobbying for tax credits on the Hill, I can also get you divorced if you need me to, but-

Bill:

There’s a very small number of people that that’s a one-stop shop for.

Abby:

Listen, listen. I try to de-risk my career, and so I like to have a lot of different capabilities.

Bill:

I’m imagining, as you sit between all these people that you represent with SEIA, that it’s not entirely unlike a couple that’s having a very hard time deciding how to go forward.

Abby:

Yeah, I find myself in high-conflict situations all the time. So, this is a very good skill to have.

Bill:

Well, we did some poking around and apparently, at one point you were thinking about being a doctor? Is that a rumor or is there some truth to that?

Abby:

Oh my gosh, you did poke around. No, probably like every little kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian. When I was really little, because I liked horses and dogs. On the days off of school, I would go to our local veterinarian’s office and spend the day with him. He was a family friend. I was six, I watched animals getting spayed and we would go on calls to farms and birth cows and whatever.

Abby:

Then, I decided, “You know what? I think people are maybe a little bit more interesting than animals.” So, when I was in high school, I volunteered with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad here, outside of D.C. I was an EMT and then, when I went to college, I joined that rescue squad and I became a firefighter as well. Loved it.

Bill:

Woah, wait, you were a firefighter?

Abby:

I was also a firefighter, yes, because I wanted to go to medical school and I wanted to be an emergency room doctor. So, riding firetrucks, riding ambulances, but I really didn’t like organic chemistry. I decided that perhaps that was not going to be the path of my choosing. I come from a family of lawyers and I became a lawyer. I love being a lawyer, I’m one of those people that love being a lawyer. I don’t mean in my voice to suggest that it was some sort of bad outcome. I love thinking critically, I love writing, I love arguing.

Bill:

Got it. Tell us a little bit of how lawyering turned into the role at SEIA.

Abby:

When I graduated from law school, I clerked for a federal judge and then I went to a big law firm, like lots of lawyers do. I was a deal lawyer. I did M&A and I did tax equity and I did IPOs.

Bill:

You actually understand tax equity?

Abby:

I do. I actually understand tax equity, and I understand how deals are transacted and constructed. I did that for a couple of years. I had my first child and then decided that maybe that wasn’t a good balance, working for a large multinational law firm and having a three month old. So, I went to a smaller law firm. I realized that I was wrong, that there’s billable hours, or billable hours, no matter the size of your law firm, but that was a lesson learned. That’s where I went and I became a divorce lawyer for five or six years.

Abby:

I had a second baby and then a third baby. I was on my maternity leave with my third baby, arguing at the Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis, Maryland, saw a friend who just became the deputy, I mean, excuse me, the General Counsel at the Maryland Public Service Commission. I was, you can imagine, a little irritated. I was on maternity leave and arguing an appellate case, because that’s not what you’re supposed to be doing on maternity leave.

Abby:

I had three kids under the age of five and I was billing 2,400 hours a year and thought, “Okay, this is really not sustainable.” So, that’s when I came into energy. I went to be the Deputy General Counsel at the Maryland Public Service Commission, at a very steep learning curve, about energy regulation and electricity markets, but I worked with some incredibly smart people and I just loved it.

Abby:

I did that for a couple of years and then I went to work for Governor Martin O’Malley as his energy advisor. I ran his energy administration, the Maryland Energy Administration, and then he was term-limited. So, I needed a new job and I went to work for President Obama, as his Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Abby:

I would say it’s the agency you might never have heard of, but you know exactly what they do. They do all of the regulating of oil and gas development offshore. When I was there, Shell drilled in the Arctic, so I went up to the Arctic every month during drilling season, so that I could monitor this humongous multi-billion dollar drilling operation. Then, that allocation was term-limited too, so I needed another job. I finally realized that working for term-limited and politicians is not a great career path. No, it’s a fabulous career path, but-

Bill:

Seriously, those are some incredible jobs.

Abby:

They were amazing jobs, and that’s how I got to SEIA. That’s because the Obama administration was ending and I was looking for a new opportunity and this one opened up. So, I came to work at SEIA and it’s been a fabulous four years.

Bill:

What a great four years it’s been. I’ve seen you on stage a few times at conferences, but it’s a real pleasure to meet you personally here today. Solar is really coming into its own. It’s one of the most exciting times in the history of it. So, let’s talk a little bit about SEIA. Now, a lot of our listeners are from the industry and that’s a common organization they know about every day, but not everybody knows what it does. There’s probably some people that have heard of it and know you, but aren’t even really sure what you do. Why don’t we take the opportunity and just tell us a little bit about what you guys do. What’s your day look like?

Abby:

Well, if you were with my children, they would say, “My mom talks to the phone and has meetings.” That’s what I do all day. No, so there’s about 50 people that work at SEIA. Some people are surprised that we’re that large or that small, depending on your perspective. We are mostly, in non-COVID times, in Washington, although about a third of our colleagues are spread out across the United States.

Abby:

We organize ourselves in a couple of ways. Our main product that we sell is policy outcomes. If you think about it in that way, people become members of SEIA, they become our customers, because they’re looking for a certain product, which is a policy outcome. We lobby the Hill, we lobby Congress, we lobby the administration. We lobby the agencies for things that will facilitate the rapid deployment of solar and solar-plus-storage.

Abby:

It could be pieces of legislation, it could be policy, it could be trade. We also lobby, if you sort of go at the federal level and then think about sort of FERC and the regulatory and the RTOs, we lobby that. For fair market rules, we have an entire state team. We identify about 12 or 14 states, every year, that are priorities for us. We have staff and lobbyists and attorneys in those states that are fighting their legislative and regulatory battles, again, to open and keep open solar markets. That’s the advocacy team.

Abby:

We also have a communications team, because it’s really important in our advocacy work, but also in the public acceptance of solar that we tell our story and we do it well. So, we have a really amazing communications team. We have a research team, because the first question you’re going to get asked is, “Well, how much solar is there? How many people work in solar? What’s the number one NHL facility with the most solar on it?” That’d be the Washington Capitals. “How many schools have solar?”

Abby:

There’s this whole behind-the-scenes research apparatus that we have, that then produces public reports and quarterly SMI, solar market insight, every quarter, that talks about retrospectively about what we have built, but almost more importantly, where the market’s going

Bill:

I admit having spent many an hour looking at those reports.

Abby:

Oh, that makes my research team so happy.

Bill:

Finishing up a book this year and the research is quoted throughout it. You guys do really good work and you are obviously one of the bedrock sources of information on this space [crosstalk 00:10:56] You guys are a trade organization and it might be expected that you spin it a little bit, but I find it to be very straight-forward and objective. Usable as an objective source. Thank you for doing that and making it available publicly.

Abby:

Oh, that’s great. I’m so glad to hear that. I’ll make sure that our research team knows that, because it’s really important. It’s important for all kinds of reasons. We also have a membership team, to think about how our customers are experiencing our services. Then, we have a legal team, because we do a lot of litigation. Both on the consumer protection side, for our distributive companies, we’re wanting to make sure that they are good actors and they are doing things by the book, on the trade side. We’re currently in litigation with the U.S Government, around tariffs and the PURPA, we’re suing PURPA at the moment.

Bill:

Oh my gosh, wow.

Abby:

We do a lot, actually. It’s a pretty amazing place to be, because-

Bill:

You’re in the center of it.

Abby:

We’re the center of it. I haven’t even you, we own SPI. One of the things that happened when I got into the trade association world, where I’d never, ever been, other than getting lobbied by trade associations, a huge part of which, is funny, a huge part of our revenue comes from our trade shows-

Bill:

I didn’t know that.

Abby:

It’s true.

Bill:

No wonder you were always in the stage at the beginning of SPI, I get it now. I just thought they liked you. Now, I get it.

Abby:

I mean, they do like me, because they have to. There’s a whole separate company that runs our shows for us, but designing the content and ensuring that that, as a business development and strategic asset that we have, that’s a really important part of what I do every day.

Bill:

What is a day an Abby Hopper’s life like? I mean, I imagine today, it’s a lot of Zooming. Context-wise, who are you talking to? What are the topics?

Abby:

In the past two work days, I’ve met with the leaders of the climate team at the White House.

Bill:

Cool.

Abby:

I’ve let with the Chair of the Ways and Means Committee. I’ve met with other members of the Ways and Means Committee. I’ve met with U.S. senators. My personal lobbying time is spent with national members of Congress or for commissioners. Those are the people that I talk to, about what our priorities are and what we need. I spend a fair amount of time talking to our partners. So, for example, the head of the Wind Association or the Storage Association, to make sure that there’s a clear communication strategy and advocacy strategy around what the clean energy needs.

Abby:

My favorite time is talking to my members, because honestly, I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna, but I can tell you all day long what’s happening in Washington and I know, because that’s my job, but the members tell me what’s happening in the industry. What’s happening in their business and what’s happening on the ground. Where the sticking points are and what challenges they’re having so that I can figure out what policy we need to change to allow them to do their business better. I think that’s how I spend my time. And the Peloton, but that’s another topic for today.

Bill:

Oh, yeah. I was on a video call with a friend of mine in the Department of Energy the other day. The whole time, he’s going up and down and finally I said, “What are you doing, man?” He said, “I spend my entire day on a treadmill, doing Zoom calls.” So, it’s a high bar. You won’t see me on a treadmill. Oh my god.

Abby:

Holy cow. No, you can’t see my face, I mean, you can see my face though, but hair, makeup, every day. That’s how I go to work on my Peloton. I’m on my Peloton.

Bill:

Separation of life. I like it, I like it. We have a million topics and we only have a few minutes. You’ve laid out 6 for 46, six initiatives for our new sheriff. Now that we’ve got administration in place and somewhat of a Congress thinking more about these topics, how do you focus all the possibilities? I mean, obviously there’s a thousand things that should be happening and you’ve distilled it down to six. What are they? How did you choose them? What are the people listening to this need to be echoing to their elected leaders and their influencers so we can get this lined up?

Abby:

As we thought about those 6 for 46, we wanted to give then the president-elect a really clear list of, “What can you do, Mr. President, early on in your administration?” The great news is, he’s done a lot of them. The executive order to remove the section 201 tariffs, that is an important piece of advocacy. We continue to lobby the administration to do that. Obviously, he has appointed Gina McCarthy to be the climate tzar, which is incredibly exciting. That bold legislation to address climate change and clean energy, including refundable option, standalone ITC for storage, significant funding for solar apps, has been relatively successful, getting a bunch more, which is so exciting.

Bill:

We had Birchy on the podcast a few weeks ago-

Abby:

Oh, good.

Bill:

And he has given us some of the backstory on Solar app.

Abby:

It sounds cooler when he talks about it because of his accent.

Bill:

I wasn’t going to say it, but yes.

Abby:

It’s all right. Domestic manufacturing is obviously really important to us and really important to this administration. So, we have some very specific policy ideas, about what the administration and the Congress can do to support that. Five was to a point for commissioners that understand this changing energy landscape, obviously Commissioner Klementz, who just joined and appointing Commissioner or Chairperson Glick has been important.

Abby:

Then, the Department of Interior, Deb Haaland as the second nominee is so important for renewable energy and for environmental justice and for indigenous peoples. I am incredibly optimistic that, with her at the helm, and Jennifer, Governor Granholm or Secretary Granholm, she has a long list of titles, at DOE. Michael Regan at EPA and Gina in the White House. I mean, the possibilities are endless. So, to your question, of what are the priorities, when I talk to my members, the priorities are speed of deployment and business certainty.

Bill:

Yes. Great point on that second one.

Abby:

I’m running a business personally and I represented businesses. So, businesses want certainty. If we know what the rules of the road are, we can innovate and experiment and be creative, but you can’t keep changing the rules on us every year. Long-term tax policy, clear market signals, things that don’t change overnight. We want durable, durable, durable policy. When you think about it in that lens, it becomes a lot simpler. It really does, to think about what we need.

Sam Easterby:

What do trade policies have to do with locally-produced clean solar energy in the United States? In a February 2021 joint proclamation and letter to President Biden, clean energy industry leaders in the United States drew a bright line between success and failure for the new administration, for delivering on clean energy campaign promises.

Sam Easterby:

Industry leaders pointed to the startling impact questionable tariff implementations by the previous administration are having on domestic manufacturing jobs and clean energy objectives. As a co-author, supporter and leader of this industry effort, our guest today, Abby Hopper, points out that the clean energy industry and its partners remain committed to long-term policies that can boost domestic manufacturing. Such as increased federal procurement opportunities for U.S. equipment manufacturers and tax credits to help incentivize private sector investments in domestic manufacturing.

Sam Easterby:

If you want to read more about this industry push and why it’s so important, check out the links in our podcast notes for this episode on FreeingEnergy.com. It seems a more collaborative, inclusive, deliberative, and urgent dialogue is unfolding, right in front of us on the future of clean local energy. Now, let’s get back to Bill and Abby, to learn even more.

Bill:

Yeah, I’ve been a business person my whole career and getting used to this industry and the fact that you can’t plan more than a few years in advance. The pendulum, at least recently, has swung from one extreme to the next. What it means is, no one’s making any big bets. No one’s building any capital infrastructure and I do believe that, in the absence of good policy, the U.S. will struggle to regain any kind of manufacturing foothold.

Bill:

That’s actually my next question for you, is, I personally love America’s early role in the solar industry. I’ve written about it a lot. I’ve been to China several times and met with a lot of leaders who are building the solar products that we use over here, but it doesn’t need to be as concentrated. The U.S. should and can play a much larger role.

Bill:

So, how do you guys navigate the manufacturing side, which, in some ways, doesn’t have the same interest as the people who do the installations, because they’d like the panels to be as cheap as possible. At least, conventionally, that’s going to come by making them overseas. How do you navigate that? But, more importantly, what are you telling the administration and Congress we need to do to get manufacturing really picking up here?

Abby:

We tell them a couple of things. One, we tell them that, you have to look at this holistically. You have to think about manufacturing policy, labor policy, tax policy as a part of a whole package. You can’t just one-off this stuff, or else you’re not going to have that sustained long-term growth and capital investment that they’re really looking for.

Abby:

We could be selling pencils, or we could be selling solar panels. If there is a strong demand for it, that’s when people are going to make big bets. That’s where the tax policy comes in. A long-term and a clear runway for increased and ever-expanding demand. That will give people more comfort to start investing more in domestic manufacturing. We are lobbying for specific tax credits. Investment tax credits for manufacturing facilities, as well as, perhaps, production tax credits.

Abby:

For every widget that comes off of the factory floor, but also, really thinking about the entirety of this solar balance of system. There’s been so much attention on cells and modules, understandably so. That’s what you think of. That is the public face, if you will, of solar manufacturing. There’s a whole balance of system that we also need to be talking about. In terms of the inverters and the racking systems and the wiring.

Abby:

I think, to your point about pandemics, I think a lot of people looked at their supply chains. When their supply chains were interrupted in ways that perhaps they had not anticipated or thought about. It brought value to having a more secure supply chain, perhaps in a way, if you and I were talking last May or March One, we might not have appreciated it as much.

Bill:

Yeah, and I think the administration is very aware of the microchip supply chain issues that are affecting a broader set of industries. I think any solutions they come up with there will certainly play to the benefit of solar as well. I also just want to comment; I have been called, behind my back, several times, Battery Bill, because I’m kind of nuts about batteries.

Bill:

So, I really do want to highlight that getting a separate policy for batteries, support, tax breaks or whatever, that’s independent of just solar, I think is going to be very important. It just requires a lot of gymnastics to make all that work together. People do it, but I’m a huge fan of what batteries will do for local energy and frankly, for the grid as well. Very glad to hear you guys are calling it out and very glad to hear you mention it in your mission.

Abby:

Absolutely. I mean, I’m a little biased, I like to do things that are transformative. Not just everyday. Battery Bill, obviously, batteries and storage are going to transform the way. They’re not just going to transform the way that our grid works, but I think they’re going to transform the way that the relationship people have with their own energy usage and their own energy systems in their homes. Whatever that home may look like, it’s going to be a very, very different personal relationship. That, I think, is incredibly exciting.

Bill:

Yeah, I think the magic of batteries, at least at a local level, is that it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to go off grid. I don’t know that there’s a big market immediately for that, but I think it just gives you a degree of independence. A degree of resiliency. Energy becomes something that you’re not just DIYing occasionally when the sun’s shining, but it’s something that you actually can control and you can watch.

Bill:

I think, for a lot of people, even before it’s the cheapest option, it’s just kind of cool. I have a couple of power walls in my house and I actually have a computer screen displaying that little thing all the time. We talk about it, “Hey, why’s it go up a kilowatt?” I think that’s just, nothing in my life, I thought about energy and I think batteries make that easier. Make it more straight-forward.

Abby:

They do. They do. I will say, back in the before days, when we went to conferences, people would always tell me, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this about the solar industry, but it’s like AA, people always tell you how long they’ve been in, right?

Bill:

Yes.

Abby:

Like, “Hi, I’m Bill and I’ve been in solar for 10 years.” Which I think is so weird. I don’t know any other industry that does it. Secondly, do you know how many people’s phones I’ve looked at so they could show me their apps about how much their solar system is producing? It’s like, “Okay, I have actually seen an app before, but that is so great that you are so proud and want to show it to me.”

Bill:

Yeah, but it’s an interesting observation about the industry. I think it’s a sign of survival. If you’ve been in this industry 10 years, you are a survivor, because this, they call it the solar coaster. It has had as much ups and downs as any industry I’ve seen. Have gotten through it a decade or more, I think you get some kind of merit badge or something. It’s a purple heart, I don’t know.

Abby:

I mean, at least a t-shirt, Bill.

Bill:

Yeah, that’s right, but it’s better than a gold watch. If you could have any three policy wishes, you did a lot of things and a genie popped out and you saw, in your hand, there are a magic lamp and you rubbed it, genie says you can have any three wishes. You know, what would you wish?

Abby:

Gosh, people don’t usually offer me the genie. I would wish for three things. One is that I would wish for business certainty. Whether that’s the form of a carbon tax and long-term extension of the ITC, the removal of tariffs with clarity that we don’t have to worry about it every five seconds. So, long-term business certainty.

Abby:

I would wish for a trained, equitable, diverse workforce. I mean, one of the beauties of our industry is that we’re growing rapidly. Even if we only get to 20% of America’s energy generation by 2030, we’ll still go from 250,000 people to 600,000 people employed in solar, in that timeframe. I want to make sure we have the workforce ready, willing and able to fuel this part of our sector. But, I also want to ensure that it’s as diverse as our nation. People talk about jobs a lot, that’s great, but I want entrepreneurs. I want business owners and wealth creation. That’s what I think true diversity looks like. That would be my second wish.

Bill:

Abby, I just want to point out that is a wonderful quote. I think that, if you look at our mission and our tagline at Freeing Energy, it’s really for entrepreneurs, but, particularly the definition that you used, which isn’t some Silicon Valley whizz-kid, although we love that, but also people that are just basically building their own business, their own jobs. They’re creating their own jobs. I haven’t heard it called out that way in this industry and I’m going to borrow that and credit you. That’s a wonderful description.

Abby:

Oh, you’re kind. Please do, please. We need to be thinking that way. I would say the third is storage, because storage is transformative-

Bill:

Whoop whoop.

Abby:

If we business certainty, we have a diverse and ready workforce and we add that storage to the mix, there’s nothing we can’t do.

Bill:

You guys are representing an amazing array of interests and not only are you representing this wide set of people and helping them navigate these forces that don’t want solar to be successful, but within your members, you’ve got people who don’t always agree, or at least, the immediate outcomes aren’t all exactly lined up.

Bill:

All of the folks that listen in to this are pretty passionate about local energy and you guys do a lot of amazing stuff, but also, you have a lot of people who build the giant utility-scale projects. Their interests are not always aligned. You know, a lot of the job stories on the local side, where it’s very labor-intensive, where the tariffs don’t affect local energy stuff as much, because that’s a much smaller portion of the cost. So, how do you guys thread that needle of all these different interests?

Abby:

Yeah, I should have mentioned that when you said, “How do I spend my days?” Threading the needle. That’s how I spend my days, threading the needle. I think, as our industry matures and I talk about the maturation of the solar industry in a variety of ways, our political organizing has to mature, our political giving has to mature. Our communications, our research, all of it.

Abby:

One of the ways in which I think we have matured and I’m really proud of it, is that we recognize the value that the other market segments bring. It is not a fight over a teeny tiny little piece of the pie, it is, “How do we work together to create this transformed energy future, for which there will be abundance for all of us?” So, local energy, distributed energy, energy amongst neighbors has a political appeal.

Abby:

Doesn’t matter if you’re in a state house, a county council or in the halls of Congress. If I talk to legislators, regardless of what body they’re representing, they almost always think of rooftop solar. I could go in wanting to talk to them about a 500 megawatt project in the middle of the desert and they want to tell me about solar on their roof. Because it’s that personal relationship.

Abby:

Utility Scout friends, understand that workforce, that political power has value to them when they’re lobbying for policies. I think the distributive companies really understand that utility-scale folks have done a great job of driving down cost. That cost reduction has benefited everybody. But, if you think about that middle sector, the commercial and industrial sector, the amount of goodwill we got from big companies going solar has incredible appeal, because it doesn’t seem like some weird science experiment.

Abby:

It seems like Walmart is not going solar to make their employees feel good. They’re going solar because it makes economic sense. That’s partly how I thread the needle, is trying to actually weave the needle. Weave the threads together, to really demonstrate how incredibly strong we are when we go in with one voice and we go in recognizing the strength of the other sectors. It is something that we’re always cognizant of, but there are no solar wars going on in my boardroom. That is not happening at SEIA. I think that is no longer.

Bill:

That’s a great answer. I would expect nothing less.

Abby:

Has the benefit of being genuine.

Bill:

I know, and I would expect nothing less from someone who runs SEIA for us. I love the way you used the metaphor, I mean, that was also just, props to you. As a person who writes and tries to get points across, you just picked that metaphor up and ran with it, man. As we wrap up with all of our guests, we like to do one final torture session and ask them four standard questions we ask everybody. We call these a lightning round. So, the first question is, what excites you the most about being in the clean energy industry?

Abby:

Oh, what excites me the most is I think we’re changing the world. We are saving the world, changing the world and making it so much better for our children.

Bill:

I love that. If you could wave a magic wand and see one thing changed in the transition to clean, renewable energy, what would it be?

Abby:

It would be that the benefits of it are abundantly clear and available to all members of our community.

Bill:

What do you think will be the single-most important change in how we generate, store and distribute electricity in the next five years?

Abby:

Storage, storage, storage.

Bill:

Bingo. Wow. There’s no right answers for that, but that is the right answer to that question.

Abby:

That is the right answer. I mean, come on.

Bill:

Yes. Yes, yes. We’ve had several battery experts here and I know I can count on them to get the answer right. Then, a lot of our folks listening in don’t live in the industry every day. They’re not solar installers, they’re not doing startups. They’re outside of the industry, they want to make a difference, they feel the urgency. When people come to you and say, “Abby, what can I do as an individual to help move us towards clean energy faster?” What do you tell them?

Abby:

That one is really simple. The best lobbyist is an individual with a personal story. If you are a homeowner that has solar on your home, tell your elected official. It doesn’t matter if it’s your county council member or the President of the United States. It’s your personal story and you can tell it better than I can. If you are someone who works in the solar industry, tell that story. If you’re someone who is a farmer and leasing out part of your ag land and getting that rental income has allowed you to maintain that family farm, go tell your state senator and your U.S. senator.

Abby:

That is, without a doubt, the most impactful thing you can do. If, really, your only connection to solar is that you care deeply about the health of our nation and the health of our planet, that’s enough. Go tell your elected official that.

Bill:

Everybody needs to get out there and talk to their elected officials. It matters, that matters a lot. Well, again, Abby, I wish we had you for three or four hours and we could talk about all of these topics, because you bring a great perspective to them. We’re going to have to wrap it up today. Really appreciate your time today and great insights. Thank you.

Abby:

Thank you, Bill. That was so fun.

Sam Easterby:

Thank you for joining us today. You have been listening to the Freeing Energy podcast, personal stories from the clean energy movement. Visit FreeingEnergy.com to learn more about clean local energy. I’m Sam Easterby. Bill is my co-host and the founder of the Freeing Energy Project. The Freeing Energy podcast is made in partnership with Frequency Media. Subscribe to the Freeing Energy podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcasts and anywhere podcasts are found. Make sure more people learn about clean local energy by rating and reviewing the show on Apple Podcast.

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