Posted on Wednesday December 21, 2016
Tips to help you talk to your local representative about community solar programs in your community.
Have you heard about community solar? Maybe you have seen recent stories in the local news about your electric utility offering a new way for people to access solar energy. If you live in one of the 15 states plus D.C. with enacted community solar policy, the kind of policy that creates motivation for utilities to offer this type of solar energy, chances are you are familiar with community solar. But if you live and work in the remaining 36 states, it is likely you are less familiar, and as a solar contractor, you do not have experience building a program.
The market has large growth potential. GTM Research has stated that between 2014-2020, community solar has an expected annual compound growth rate of 59 percent. That growth could continue in the existing community solar friendly states, or with advocacy from residents and solar professionals, that growth could be more widespread, benefiting more people in more places.
If you want to advocate for community solar in your own backyard, start by talking to your local lawmaker about just how much your community will benefit from a utility-hosted program. Here are five steps that could help you effectively advocate for community solar with your local representative.
At the risk of stating the obvious, preparation is key when meeting with an over-scheduled lawmaker. When you set an appointment and then meet with your elected official, be organized. Get your talking points together and make sure they are easy to understand and remember. You should walk into a meeting knowing you have five minutes to get your point across. Know the hot topics you want to convey; understand what might resonate. This is your time to express the value in what you are discussing – local jobs, increased tax revenue, a cleaner environment, long term solutions.
Key benefits and talking points of community solar:
Do not be surprised if you get the famous, “let’s walk and talk” request. That means you will be expected to present your facts while walking with your Representative to their next meeting. Because of this possibility, know what you are going to say and do not be afraid to use note cards. Then you should do the following: tell your representative what you are going to tell them, tell them what you came to say, and then tell them again what you just said. Repeat yourself so they have an opportunity to remember your meeting. Prepare those talking points so they are easy to recite repeatedly and easy for anyone to remember.
Your Representative is working for their community. Connect with them on that level by reinforcing that this community solar program benefits the entire community. Explain how it is a resource for the job market and local economy. Remind your representative that the people will benefit directly, the same people that he or she pledged to represent.
Through this meeting exists an opportunity to not only educate your representative but everyone who is influenced by this local leader. Drive the helpful facts of this meeting by delivering material that matters and gets to the point. Avoid using industry jargon, you will only complicate the message and miss your opportunity if you use words heard only on a job site. Leave behind a brochure or fact sheet that lists your talking points and provides resources for more follow-up information. Play the role of the educator by bringing clear information and helping your lawmaker process, understand, and remember the most important elements of this meeting. The goal is to resonate and to get this person to act on your behalf, becoming their own advocate of community solar.
There are many community solar resources available online:CommunitySolarHub.com
Get to the Ask
Five minutes is not a lot of time to cover all the benefits that community solar programs provide. Because you could easily spend 4 ½ minutes explaining what community solar is, preparedness and organization, as stated above, is so very important. Get to the “ask” as soon as possible. Once you have clearly expressed why community solar should be a part of your community, ask your representative to make these programs a priority. Ask them to talk about the benefits of community solar to others. Ask them to meet with utility representatives or city council members. Ask them to be an active supporter of community solar.
Complete this meeting by getting a commitment for more action, lock it in, and follow-up. Directly after the meeting send a note thanking your Representative for the meeting. Include a re-cap of what was discussed and the reminder of the commitment that was requested.
Community solar programs are driven by advocates who work with their lawmakers. The 15 states plus D.C. that have an existing policy are the same states with the highest concentration of community solar programs. Most of that policy began with customers of utilities and members of the community not letting up on a great idea. When lawmakers hear from their constituents over and over about programs that benefit the entire community, they will listen and eventually act. It is up to us, regular people and solar professionals, to advocate for energy programs that benefit us all.
Join the campaign to bring community solar to every neighborhood in the nation. Gain access to the tools that will make your projects a success. Share the details of your developments for others to see and repeat your achievements. Contribute to your community by providing the choice of clean and affordable electricity to everyone.