Suppose you’re interested in the solar energy field. In that case, whether you’re looking into upgrading a home or business with a solar system, wanting to work in this growing field, or already plying your trade in the area with other experts, you may have heard of SEIA, or the Solar Energy Industries Association. This industry association is one of the critical players in the field of renewable solar, and we’re here to give you an overview of who they are and what they do for solar energy. Keep reading to learn all about SEIA’s goals for solar installation and how they might be able to help you.
What is SEIA?
SEIA, or the Solar Energy Industries Association, is an association dedicated to helping the economy of the United States transition to renewable solar energy. SEIA unites around 1,000 member companies, combining their resources to work on projects that support the solar industry in many different ways. These projects have a variety of goals, but some of the most important ones include advocating for solar-friendly legal policies and working towards creating new jobs in the solar field.
SEIA works to help the industry expand, but they also want to make it as accessible as possible. One of their goals is to increase access to “reliable, low-cost solar power” so that individuals, small businesses, and others can have the same access to solar installers that larger corporations and government entities can have.
What they do
Since 1974, the Solar Energy Industries Association has been working to be a significant voice of the solar energy field in the United States. They are focused on lobbying and working towards beneficial policies in the future and expanding the solar industry here and now through increasing public access to information about solar energy. They are also working on setting up guidelines to ensure a competitive environment for solar companies so that consumers can have more and better options when turning to solar power. Working with public officials and participating in lobbying for solar-friendly laws and policies is one other important aspect of SEIA’s work, allowing them to push for the expansion of solar and for increased access to and incentives for this method of providing greater installed solar capacity to source more renewable energy.
SEIA also runs committees and sets standards intended to increase consumer protection and customer rights and provides a space for news outlets and the press to be able to communicate with major players in the solar field.
How they advocate for clean energy
Solar energy is a relatively new player in the field of energy production; although it has been around for several decades now, other methods of energy production such as coal and oil have been in use for much longer. Since solar is relatively new to the game, when considered in this light, solar energy providers have faced many hurdles when trying to improve their reach and provide services for more consumers. Traditional, non-renewable energy companies have a lot of influence. Although this solar project has made great strides towards mainstream recognition in recent years, there are still ways that this field needs additional support, especially in the political sphere.
One of SEIA’s main goals is to continue to advocate for clean energy, especially solar energy. SEIA and its member organizations are always looking for ways to improve access to solar energy solutions, improved funding and increased research for solar and renewable energy solutions, and easier methods for upgrading systems and providing protections for solar energy consumers. All of these things not only are great for solar customers, who will find it easier and more convenient to switch over to renewable energy, but they’re also excellent results for solar manufacturers, installers, and others in the field since they will also have more business and better access to interested consumers. Basically, SEIA is trying to help everything in the solar field run more efficiently and smoothly on both the consumer end and the provider end, growing the solar market in helpful ways.
Here are some examples of actions SEIA or its member organizations have taken in order to advocate for clean energy:
Advocating for renewable energy research funding
In July of 2022, SEIA partnered with a coalition of “clean energy organizations” to send a letter to the United States Congress to urge them to support a proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Energy. The proposed budget allocated significant funding for many renewable energy offices and research teams, as well as presenting a new focus on “lowering the cost of long-duration energy storage.” Because of this, SEIA and their partners wrote a letter to congress members inviting them to offer their support for the proposed budget.
Bringing attention to the needs of lower-income communities
In conjunction with other interested parties, SEIA has put together a platform proposing a way to help bring more equity to renewable energy. Because it has been noticed that “lower-income, minority and underserved communities” are not benefiting equally from energy investments, SEIA is attempting to bring attention to this issue and encourage more conservative energy policies and outcomes in the name of “environmental justice” so that more communities will be able to benefit from solar products and other renewable energies.
Assisting with the development of a solar permitting app tool
Working together with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and other rooftop solar companies and interested parties, SEIA helped develop the software for an app that is intended to help more American homes convert to solar energy by streamlining the solar permitting process. Although many leading solar companies do offer to help with this process when homeowners want to install solar panels, the permitting process is one that can still be intimidating to the average homeowner. This app, which is called SolarAPP+, is intended to help both “state and local governments” in an attempt to “streamline and automate” the permit process for rooftop solar systems. SEIA offers an estimate that this technology could “help more than 2.4 million homes go solar while creating 30,000 new American jobs over the next few years.”
What SEIA has done for solar?
SEIA’s goal as an advocacy group is to create a strong solar industry by helping it grow and supporting it as this growth occurs. They also have the purpose of attempting to increase access to solar and renewable energy, especially for impoverished areas that would greatly benefit from these sorts of systems.
In addition to their advocacy for an improved solar energy field and increased access to this energy for more people, SEIA also works to provide support for other customer-facing programs.
One of these types of programs is known as a property-assessed clean energy program. Never heard of it before? Well, SEIA has offered a good summary of what this term means and what these kinds of programs typically offer:
“PACE is a voluntary program in which a home or business owner will receive financing from a local government to cover the up-front cost of qualified energy improvements, and in exchange, will repay the up-front cost through a special assessment on their property tax over a period of years or decades.”
In essence, PACE is a type of financial aid available for those who want to improve their home or place of business with increased energy efficiency. These kinds of improvements can include solar panel systems, of course, but also things like weather sealing, insulation, and heating with increased efficiency. All of these improvements are possible for many more customers through PACE since it allows for the high cost of many of these things to be paid off over time, instead of all at once. This also handily improves the reach of solar energy systems to areas that typically might not be able to afford it. In addition, these improvements increase the property value of buildings where they are installed, which can further help property owners.
So, how does SEIA help encourage these kinds of programs? In addition to putting together helpful links on the topic on the page linked above and putting together blog posts explaining government initiatives regarding PACE, they also create whitepapers looking at how PACE works and how it can encourage growth in the solar market.
SEIA’s website mentions that 33 states (as well as Washington, D.C.) have authorized PACE programs. These programs have been in operation since 2008, and SEIA explains that PACE pilot programs have proven that properties that take advantage of PACE have seen the intended benefits, including “increased energy savings” and even “lower foreclosure rates.” In short, if you’re someone who is looking at improving the energy efficiency of a property that you own, whether it’s a home or business, PACE programs may be of great value to you, and SEIA is continuing to advocate for the expansion of these programs in a safe and thoughtful way through proper legislation and planning.
What is SEIA’s view towards community and inclusion?
Inclusion is one of the most important things in SEIA’s vision. They have a goal to have a diverse workforce, to serve a variety of communities, and overcome potential injustice by making sure that everyone who wishes to is able to work in and benefit from the solar energy industry.
Their idea of inclusion involves working towards increased access to solar energy, including and most specifically in underprivileged areas and neighborhoods. This means working towards programs that help more people have access to renewable energy and improved energy efficiency (like the PACE programs) and making sure that improved technology is able to benefit more people, including by reducing the cost of solar energy.
SEIA has created and published a best practices guide for people and companies who want to help address inequalities in the solar energy field. This guide mentions ways in which SEIA has attempted to increase inclusion and diversity and gives ideas for how other companies can do so as well. These actions that they have taken include working with the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Development Action Coalition, creating education on diversity and inclusion, and creating the “CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion Pledge” as a vision of how companies can help achieve these goals. As they mention themselves when more people are able to be involved in a business or industry, that business or industry will be improved by the ideas that they bring with them, and thus “improving diversity is not just the right thing to do, it’s also a smart business decision.”
SEIA also works towards making renewable energy more accessible for lower- and middle-class areas in an attempt to ensure that it is not only the most wealthy Americans who are able to benefit from this technology. This is good for these communities and good for the environment as well, as more and more groups and areas are able to convert to renewable energy production and usage.
Opposition to Tariffs
As a part of working towards this goal of being able to build more inclusive access to solar power, SEIA also opposes tariffs and legislation which prevent the import of international solar panels and other related technology. They have specifically spoken out against some 2018 tariffs intended to protect American solar manufacturers, believing that tariffs and the solar industry do not need to go hand-in-hand–in fact, they went so far as to call these kinds of tariffs “job-killing,” since they are slowing the rate of growth in the solar industry as a whole by interrupting the supply chain of the industry, even if these tariffs do, in some ways, encourage American manufacturers specifically.
SEIA is focused more on the general increase of the solar energy field altogether, not on the value or growth of any particular company in that field. This means that they and their lobbying and activism are focused greatly on issues that will work towards more widespread access to solar products and other renewable energy, not just on what will be the most profitable for players in that field in the short term. Of course, expansion within the solar energy field also leads to long-term growth for most players in the field, as well, so most of the time, SEIA’s work seems likely to lead to improved situations for both companies and their customers.
So, in short, SEIA is very dedicated to taking and encouraging actions that improve both the diversity and reach of the solar energy industry, and they encourage their member organizations to participate in this goal.
What does it mean to be a SEIA Member?
That brings us to another interesting point. We’ve mentioned several times that SEIA is made of member organizations, but who are they, and what does that mean? From SEIA’s website, we can learn the following about the kinds of companies and organizations that are a part of SEIA:
“Our member companies consist of installers, project developers, manufacturers, contractors, financiers and non-profits, all of whom see the benefit in joining SEIA and working collectively toward a clean future.”
All of these groups are members of the solar energy community who see a benefit in being part of SEIA because of the benefits that they offer, which will be described in more detail below.
What will a membership do for my company?
SEIA has a basic membership, priced at $750 annually. This membership gives member organizations access to several listed benefits; first, they are able to access more opportunities to network with peers in the solar industry. Specifically, SEIA offers members access to the SEIA Sphere, which is a forum for networking and communication, as well as putting member companies on the SEIA Member Directory to increase their exposure to customers and other industry professionals. Members also gain access to SEIA webinars and education, allowing them to keep up to date with industry developments and policy changes. Members also have access to other resources, like the SEIA Solar Tax Manual, which helps them learn about tax incentives related to solar energy in the areas in which they operate, thereby helping them better serve their customers and potential customers.
SEIA notes that “SEIA memberships are corporate, so all employees of your company will have access to benefits.”
So that’s what SEIA does! They’re a big player in the solar energy field, especially on the business and policy side of things, and a group that offers a membership that many solar companies have found very valuable. Even as a consumer or an individual solar worker (or potential solar worker), there are resources offered by SEIA that you may find useful while learning more about the solar industry.
If you are interested in learning more about other solar companies or reviewing the potential cost of solar, look at some of our other articles on GoingSolar.com.