Reaching Out for Public Support

Seth MasiaBy SETH MASIA

SOLAR TODAY, now in its 28th year, began life focused mainly on new technology developments. With and without government support, renewable energy research and deployment progressed over the decades to the point where wind, solar and geothermal sources are now fully cost-competitive with fossil and nuclear plants.

One result is pushback from fossil fuel companies and the investor-owned utilities (IOUs), all regulated monopolies, who are now in a long painful transition out of the business model they’ve found profitable over the past 125 years. They make money by selling electricity to retail customers. They make less money when retail customers make some of their own electricity. And the IOUs would like to limit customer generation as much as possible. They’ve embarked on a nationwide campaign to delude the press and public that net metering is unfair, and we’ve been covering the issue regularly in our Solar Citizen newsletter (see solartoday.org/solarcitizen).

A major task for the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) in the coming year or two will be to support our chapters in local fights to preserve net metering and state renewable electricity standards (also under attack). We’re now in discussions with chapters on how best to align our resources to get the public outreach we need to be an effective voice in these local campaigns. And so we’ve begun redeveloping the ASES media for better public outreach.

Our web design consultant, Keya Lea Horiuchi, undertook a complete revision of our websites last fall, and they went live in January, on a new server (Green House Data) running entirely on wind power. The sites solartoday.org and ases.org contain a wealth of new content that can be useful in educating local voters, politicians and news editors. Please mine it and use it. Ases.org is fast becoming the home of the ASES archives — 60 years of science and policy papers that form the foundation of where renewables stand now and where they’re headed tomorrow.

We’ve begun planning to put SOLAR TODAY back on selected newsstands, where it will be available to ecology-minded voters/consumers. Some of the new readers will join ASES, and their local chapters, to support local clean-energy causes. To encourage recruitment of new members, we’ve launched a collaborative program with key chapters to sell a joint ASES-and-chapter membership, at a generous discount. For details, see ases.org/join.

And we’ve begun planning the National Solar Tour for October. To the extent possible, we hope to use the tour — still the largest grassroots solar event in the country — to help homeowners (and local newspapers) understand the critical value of net metering to their communities.

Seth Masia is the executive director of ASES and the editor of SOLAR TODAY. Contact him at smasia@ases.org.

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