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Published on May 10th, 2014 | by Peter Allen

8

Rhone Resch Raking It In

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May 10th, 2014 by
 
energy efficiency standards savings $1.1 trillionA friend linked me to a story this week that made my blood boil. And oddly enough, it has absolutely nothing to do with investor-owned utilities. In fact, it shines a light on a growing concern about the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). As detailed in this excellent take-down by Chet Henry on Red, Green & Blue, SEIA President Rhone Resch receives nearly $800,000 a year for his services. What do those services entail? According to Mr. Henry, it’s a hectic life of ribbon cuttings, fundraisers, and lobbying meetings on Capitol Hill.

In all seriousness, this is what tends to undermine progressive efforts to improve the quality of life in our country. We love to unite behind a great idea. But when the idea starts to grow legs and the potential for big pay days, well-dressed and well-oiled consultants and mid-level managers swoop in to scoop up big retainers and bloated contracts, and the endgame gets lost in a tsunami of strategy memos and meetings.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that Mr. Resch rakes in the big bucks while rank-and-file workers installing rooftop solar or building better solar panels hold the line against Big Energy. SEIA is doling out a high six-figure salary to a man who amounts to little more than a figurehead.

And as Mr. Henry points out later in his piece, there’s an even deeper and more insidious double standard at work here. By now, we’re all familiar with Lilly Ledbetter and the fight for equal pay in America, allegedly the most democratic nation in the world. (Note my use of the small “d”.) It’s been driven into the consciousness of every progressive in America that a woman makes $0.77 to every dollar a man makes to do the same job. And while that’s ridiculous enough, it appears the gap is even more pronounced at SEIA.

To wit, Mr. Resch receives 175% more in gross pay than Solar Electric Power Association head honcho Julia Hamm for performing virtually identical duties. Not that Hamm’s $286k salary is anything to sniff at, but you get the drift. Mr. Henry posits that this news will not exactly inspire the women of America to get on board the solar revolution happy train, and I’m inclined to agree with him. But women only make up 53% of the national electorate, so there’s no reason to panic…

It’s good to see insiders like Mr. Henry speaking truth to power and calling out hypocrisy among their allies. Seems like Mr. Resch should be less focused on pay and more focused on defending the solar industry from monopoly utilities and other very real enemies of progress.

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About the Author

is an independent media strategist based in San José, CA. You can read his many musings on Twitter @pjallen2.



  • Steve

    Tor,

    If you believe in Rhone’s abilities so much, why are you not a member of SEIA? Put your money where your mouth is.

  • jeffhre

    Thank you Peter for starting the discussion on a number of critically important issues. And as usual some comments have quickly shown some remarkable insights. I really like the directions that Marvin R Hamon, P.E. and carterl have taken.

    However, I personally hope that one day Mr. Resch receives the same compensation as Rex Tillerson. And wields as much influence. In the mean time, I don’t think it is proper to create the appearance of tossing the blame to Rhone for a 300 year history of pay inequality in America. That my friend, though unintended, would be a stretch.

    And if you wait for the blood to stop boiling, so that you can get back to the high standards of due diligence that you are known for, I would humbly suggest that emotions will not get the better of your writing :)

  • carterl

    By the way, after accounting for the difference in size of SEPA (~$5.6M in revenue) and SEIA (~$9.2M in revenue) there is a 3.6% difference in Rhone’s pay vs. Julia.

    Sexism is a very serious problem and the lack of equal pay for equal work is a terrible issue that must be fixed- but this doesn’t look like an example of that issue.

    • jimjenal

      Carter – not sure how you got that number, but look at it this way: Rhone’s 786,000 is 8.5% of total SEIA revenues. Julia’s 286,000 is 5.1% of SEPA’s. So, adjusting for revenue, Julia is making 60% of what Rhone is making.

  • http://www.hamonengineering.com/ Marvin R Hamon, P.E.

    It’s always an interesting question when we look at CEO pay. Is one person’s time and ability really worth 100 times or more than another persons? How do we compare the salaries of CEOs at different companies? I looked at the 990s for SEIA and the numbers given in the article are accurate. As a matter of fact Rhone has been getting some healthy raises in the past few years. I guess what the question really should be is, are we as SEIA members getting our money’s worth?

    I’ve been a SEIA member for about 3 years now and personally I would have to say I think we could get just as good representation for less. Rhone does a great job but it’s hard for me to justify that compensation. If he left SEIA today would he be able to walk into a similar job for similar pay? Are their trade groups lined up to pay that to a CEO? Maybe, or maybe not. Based on what other trade groups are paying it seems like SEIA is paying much more than it needs to. Is it acceptable that the CEO is taking about 9% of all the money SEIA raises every year? It seems to me like a lot.

    I won’t be renewing my SEIA membership this year for several reasons. Under the new dues structure my dues went from $500 to $1,500 a year. Frankly SEIA just doesn’t provide me with $1,500 in value and there are other things that I could do with the money that would be more helpful to me than giving it to Rhone. Even if I were still paying $500 I would have to think hard about the value of SEIA. There are other professional groups that I can support with my membership that also provide value, right now more value than SEIA.

    • Solar Advocate

      good points, Marvin

  • Kevin McKinney

    And the story links are now dead. Curious.

  • Tor Valenza

    Peter, I personally think this is unfair and unwarranted. Rhone Resch is much more than “little more than a figure head.” The relationships he has within the industry as well as outside the industry and in political circles is invaluable and that salary is probably on the low side for a DC lobbyist. There isn’t even a shortlist of candidates who could replace Rhone Resch at a lower or larger salary. You can’t compare what Rhesch’s leadership does for all sectors of the solar industry, not just installers. This is a tough, tough job, especially with this Congress and a somewhat divided solar industry, even, given the China-trade case, as well as different solar sectors with different priorities. Under his watch, the industry has only grown by leaps and bounds, not only because of him, but certainly he had a hand in ARRA benefits that has jump started residential solar with the 30% ITC, plus the 1603 cash grant. It’s easy to criticize, and it’s another thing to actually see things from a broader perspective. I personally can’t think of anyone within the solar industry who could replace Resch’s experience and connections in and outside the Beltway, so with that perspective, I hope you can see why his salary is commiserate with lobbying standards.

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