Solar Builder Buzz

Solar Builder Buzz


Solar Trade Case Talk with SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper

February 12, 2018

At Solar Power Northeast last week in Boston, we grabbed 15 mins of SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper’s time to chat about where SEIA and the solar industry go now that the trade case drama has ended and the 30 percent tariff is in place. Below is a truncated version of our chat, but be sure to listen to the entire episode (and subscribe!) using the links below.
Was SEIA surprised by the trade case outcome?
“I was a litigator for a long time, and when you get ready to try a case, you get completely convinced of your own position and it can be hard to see outside of that. I felt like, at least for me personally, there was a brief moment in time that I was entirely convinced there would be no finding of injury, no tariff, and this would all go away. I became disabused of that idea pretty quickly [laughs], and so in the realm of the possible, we have a president who likes tariffs, who ran on an aggressive trade policy. So, we knew there would be something coming. And our job was to articulate why it was a terrible idea, but also to mitigate the impact and to put some boundaries around it. There were pieces of it that did provide some hope. The 5 percent step down was significant. The exclusion for cells at 2.5 GW.

“One of the most interesting parts of the whole process was the galvanizing effect it had on our industry. In the face of a really significant threat, it brought together people in the solar industry and lots and lots of people outside the solar industry.”

Here, I drone on about how the broad coalition SEIA brought together to fight against tariffs reminded me of the plan hatched by Adrian Veidt in The Watchmen (creating a larger threat that brought together parties that previously were at odds). The point being:
Will these new relationships, which came about only through this fight against tariffs, lead to a longer term win for the solar industry?
“I don’t know if I would go quite so far as to say it was beneficial, but I do think there are unintended consequences that will benefit us. One of them is, our industry did galvanize and speak with one very loud voice. There was no question who the solar industry was and what our position was. I knew we had done a good job when I was sitting in the White House and someone echoed back to me how many jobs would be lost. And it was my number that my research department had put out. So when the administration officials told me it would be 88,000 jobs, I thought OK, we are doing something right.

“And I think as an industry, for us to play on that big stage and to have the Sean Hannitys of the world involved, and to be on Fox and Friends, and to have the Heritage Foundation involved … it gave us a sense of what was possible. I feel strongly, we are 1 to 1.5 percent of energy generation now, and we’re going to be 30-40 percent, and we’re going to have to play on that big stage, and this was an opportunity to do that.”
Do you now think the broader solar message is going to resonate more? You galvanized for a different reason, but maybe those outside of solar picked up some nuggets of information or understood the value a little bit more than they did prior?
“I think so. There were some myths that were circulating around the trade case. One of them was that solar was too expensive and was being grown by policy like RPS or mandatory procurement by utilities, but research tells us that’s just not true.


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