Is SEIA PAC out of step with the industry?

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)’s political action committee donated $73,500 to federal candidates in 2016, with 60 percent of it going to Republicans.

In the process of its bipartisan giving, SolarPAC (SEIA’S political action committee) gave money to four senators and one congressman who have a history of denying either that Climate Change is real or that human beings contribute to it.

Four Senators received $10,000 donations (two Republicans and two Democrats), including Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC. In 2015, Burr did vote to pass a Senate resolution that stated Climate Change was real, but opposed an amendment indicating humans contribute to it.

The other Climate-Change-denying recipients include Sens. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA), as well as Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen.

Dan Whitten, SEIA’s vice president of communications, explained SolarPAC’s donation strategy

“The solar industry is strong today because it has bipartisan support,” said Dan Whitten, vice president of communications for SEIA. “Solar works in all 50 states and is creating thousands of well-paying jobs from North Carolina to California. The people to whom SolarPAC  have shown support for the growth of solar energy in their states. Even in advance of the outcome of the election, we knew that this was a time when bipartisan support would be critical.”

“Moving forward, we will continue to work with politicians on both sides of the aisle to advance pro-solar policies that benefit all Americans,” Whitten said.

According to Open Secrets, which tracks political contributions, 11 solar companies gave money in the 2016 election cycle. The majority of the $47,655 went to Democrats, although the deceptively named Solar Sources and Borrego Solar did give more to Republicans.

(Solar Sources is actually an Indianapolis-based coal company that operates two mines in Indiana. Borrego’s donation ratio is skewed because of the small amount of money they contributed overall [$73 to several Democrats vs. $500 to one Republican].)

 

While SEIA’s focus on supporting federal Republicans may be at odds with the industry’s overall political-donation patterns, it should be noted that most analysts believe the Trump administration will not kill the solar industry directly, even with help from a Republican Congress.

It’s also clear that solar’s battles in 2017 will focus on the state issues of net-metering, fixed charges that penalize solar users and solar valuation.

Update: This article was updated at 1:07 pm EST on 11/28/16 to include SEIA’s response from Dan Whitten, SEIA’s vice president of communications.