Clean Power

Published on May 14th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor


Solar Industry Continues Making Great Strides Under SEIA Leadership

May 14th, 2014 by  

By Arno Harris, SEIA Board Chairman, and Nat Kreamer, SEIA Vice Chairman of the Board

seia_logoMore than 150 years ago, American author and humorist Mark Twain wrote, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Sadly, some things never change.

Recently, a few bloggers took exception to the performance and salary of Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) President and CEO Rhone Resch. They wrote that his job entailed little more than “a hectic life of ribbon cuttings, fundraisers and lobbying meetings on Capitol Hill.” Nothing could be further from the truth. As leaders on SEIA’s board of directors, we felt it was important to correct the record.

Under Rhone’s leadership, SEIA has helped our industry achieve an impressive list of policy successes, allowing solar to become one of the fastest-growing industries in America, as well as the fastest-growing source of renewable energy. Here are just a few of these major milestones:

• Created the 30% solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for both residential and commercial solar installations, later getting it extended twice by Congress

• Eliminated the $2,000 cap on residential solar power systems eligible to take the ITC

• Exempted the ITC from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

• Created 17 separate programs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment ACT (ARRA), including the 1603 Treasury Grant Program and the solar Loan Guarantee Program

• Merged SEIA with the Solar Alliance, greatly expanding the industry’s advocacy at the state level, resulting in:

o Expanded net energy metering (NEM) caps in multiple states

o Expanded and protected state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) programs across the U.S.

o Removed barriers to solar in many areas of the country, including reduced permitting costs and standardized interconnection

• Worked to expand FERC’s fast track interconnection process

• Worked with both Republican and Democratic administrations to support solar through Department of Interior and Department of Energy programs

Here are some other facts conveniently missing from the attacks on Rhone. Since the ITC was first enacted in 2006, the number of American jobs in the solar industry has grown from fewer than 20,000 to 143,000 today. Cumulative installed solar in the U.S. has soared by nearly 20 times – from 694 MW to more than 13,000 MW. And nearly $50 billion has been invested nationwide to install solar.

SEIA’s board-level compensation committee determines CEO pay through a review process that involves rigorous benchmarking of the CEO’s compensation to the pay of CEOs of similar-sized organizations with similar missions. Compared to the CEOs of trade associations representing traditional energy industries, SEIA’s CEO compensation is low. The compensation committee’s recommendation is reviewed by the executive committee before being approved. In keeping with industry practices, the CEO’s bonus is tied to performance against specific goals.

Rhone’s 10-year leadership to the U.S. solar industry has been invaluable – and it’s more important than ever as we head toward the ITC’s 2016 expiration date. From our perspective, Rhone is an innovative, forward-looking leader with an outstanding record of achievement and is deeply committed to our industry’s continued success. Rest assured, he is not compensated for ribbon cuttings and mundane meetings. He’s compensated for getting results and growing solar nationwide.

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  • solar veteran

    I was told last year 2013 (by a very authoritative source) that SEIA was operating on fumes! Which might be reflected in the little over .6 million spent on lobbying?

    What constitutes that statement is possibly the issue. If SEIA’s revenue for 2012 was $9,481,643, what was spent on staff and overhead, & what was spent on lobbying?

    I was told that in 2012 they serpent just over a million dollars that # should be verified. Not even close to being a drop in the proverbial bucket.

    The other obvious concern is where is the majority of the nine million coming from. The issue being since a majority of PV is now being manufactured in China (many state controlled and funded)do those manufacturers or other single voices have too much voice in our industry here?

    All facts worth looking into and asking for disclose from SEIA and checking from public sources.

    • Great questions. The tax forms for non-profits, form 990, are publicly available. I use to find them.

      You can find out a lot about how the funds are raised and spent.

    • Bryce Zimmerman

      What are the bylaws for recalling SEIA leadership?

      • I have not seen a copy of the bylaws for the corporation so I have no idea what members are capable of doing, but frankly I don’t see the majority of the members of SEIA being interested in a recall.

  • The solar industry is growing and SEIA has contributed to that growth, as have many organizations and people. To try to imply that all that growth is under SEIA leadership is stretching a bit.

    Ultimately it’s the large contribution members of SEIA who have to decide if the money is being spent in the most effective way. As a member of SEIA, but a very small member, I don’t have any say in how SEIA runs and all I can do is renew my membership or not. Larger organizations that make donations in excess of their membership fees have a lot more to say in how SEIA operates. Most likely they will say nothing. If there is one thing a CEO of a major company never wants to do it’s say the CEO of another company is over compensated.

    As a business owner whether or not their CEO makes $100,000 or $10,000,000 a year does not effect my business. As a member of SEIA I question if we are getting value equal to the compensation and if the internal compensation structure is balanced. But SEIA does not care what a small member like me questions.

  • jimjenal

    As one of the bloggers in question, let me make a couple of points.
    First, I did not criticize Mr. Resch’s performance or belittle his efforts in any way. I respect Rhone’s work and I said so. That being said, the laundry list provided above – while laudable – is certainly not all a direct result of his work, or even the work of SEIA.
    Second, the real issue was the disconnect between the compensation being provided to SEIA’s CEO – $786,000 – compared to what the head of SEPA makes (roughly 1/3) or what the heads of the 80% of US solar companies who are NOT SEIA members make. It is that disconnect which got people talking, not a perceived failure by SEIA to provide any benefits to the solar industry.

    • Laura Jones

      Jim, the comparison of CEO pay between SEIA and SEPA is a
      red herring. The organizations have two distinctly different
      missions. I serve as a SEIA board member and place great value on its
      work. Simply put, SEIA is a trade association as reflected in its 501(c)(6)
      tax status and does extensive advocacy for the industry at both the state and
      federal level, whereas SEPA is a charitable education organization as reflected
      in its 501(c)(3) tax status and is prohibited under that status from the performing industry advocacy that SEIA conducts. If you
      want an apples-to-apples comparison, Rhone Resch’s compensation in 2012 was
      similar to that of Denise Bode, who served as president and CEO of the American
      Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

      • Comparing SEIA to AWEA needs a little more information or it too is a red herring. AWEA paid $623,199 to its CEO verses SEIA at $786,603, or 26% more. I’d say that is slightly outside of similar. But the comparison does not stop there.

        SEIA’s revenue for 2012 was $9,481,643 and AWEA’s was $30,827,764. So AWEA pays about 2% of their revenue to their CEO where SEIA pays about 8.3%, over 4 times more that AWEA. Still want to make this apples to apples comparison to AWEA?

        Let’s not forget that SEIA guarantees that the CEO will travel first class, AWEA does not. That’s just the cherry on the apple tart of this comparison.

        • Donnie

          Engineer out lawyers the lawyer

  • Chris Aloise

    How can SEIA help us get an RPS program in Florida and other SE States?

    • Generally SEIA does not act on a state level. There are often SEIA offshoots at the state level such as CALSEIA in California. Try to find a state organization and work through them.

      • Andrew Savage


        That’s really no longer the case regarding state activity. While the local organizations are excellent, when SEIA and the Solar Alliance
        merged, SEIA became very active at the state level on issues like NEM and RPS (critical issues for our industry to thrive) and has been a significant player in states such as California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina and Ohio, to name just a few. As a relatively new SEIA board member, I have also worked closely with the organization on issues in my home state of Vermont, where we just increased our net metering cap by 4-fold. Carrie Cullen Hitt, SEIA’s Sr. Vice President for state affairs,
        provides great leadership dedicated exclusively to state solar affairs. I think it’s been an invaluable expansion of SEIA’s efforts, particularly given where the real solar policy action is these days.

        • But there’s just not much visibility on what SEIA is doing on the state level. There is a page on the SEIA website for each state with information about what is going on in that state but no information about specific items or legislation SEIA is working to advance or the status of that advancement. There is no contact person listed for a state that someone could contact to get more information. There are no state working groups listed listed. Solar Alliance seem to have disappeared into SEIA. It would be nice to know more about what SEIA is doing on a state level.

          Based on what I see SEIA is primarily focused on international and national issues, and that’s fine with me. You can’t be all things to all people, play to your strengths. I still say if you want to get involved in state issues contact a state group, not the national SEIA.

        • Chris Aloise

          Thanks for the input Andrew, much appreciated. Vermont has definitely moved things forward by a milestone. We could use Carrie’s help in Florida.

  • JamesWimberley

    In keeping with industry practices, the CEO’s bonus is tied to performance against specific goals.

    • Adam Devereaux

      The problem is if you want an effective lobbyist in Washington then you have to pay for it. What else could you benchmark against? I think most of us would be upset if our employer wanted to pay us based on their gut and cut pay in half versus competitive market rates.

      Remember if he fails to deliver in the next cycle then he will be gone. They pay him for the results and because he can demand it. If they thought someone else could do as good of a job or better for less they would switch.

      Solar would not be doing nearly half so well in this country if it were not for a stable incentive system and effective government support. The loan programs and other agency support has been instrumental. And while it’s hard to say exactly what Resch was directly responsible for I know a lot of industry insiders do credit him as being a large part of our current ITC and investment act programs.

      While I largely agree with your point about the feedback system between a lot of boards and executives remember that SEIA has a very large member SEIA has a very large member led board. I don’t begrudge someone fair compensation for a quality job.

  • Kyle Field

    Good stuff. This sounds like a worthy organization to support for the greater good of renewables (solar specifically obviously) in the US

  • It’s easy to be critical. If one would step back and look at the big picture, you can easily argue that anyone involved in the solar power industry is providing significant value.

  • patb2009

    Everyone’s a critic.

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