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Let's Schmooze Scott Sklar, Sunny Side Up

Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1998

reappears. He and Hurwitch launch into funding talks, this time about the Million Solar Roofs implementation program.

"I'm going basically outside of DOE on a Million Solar Roof implementation. They can't deal with it."

"They can't deal with it contractually?" Hurwitch asks.

"They can't deal with it any way."

Sklar mentions the DOE official leading the Million Roofs program. "He's a sweetheart. They have no clout in this process. They're not worth any money. They can't deal with money."

Sklar says $1.5 million in federal money will go to states for demonstration solar units. Meanwhile, he's trying to raise $400,000 from the industry to do others.

10:38 A.M. Sklar's sprawled in a chair in the conference room, worrying at his cuticles while two of his 20 staffers, Linda Ladas and Murray S. Liebman, discuss the Million Roofs program.

Liebman says a representative of a major California utility recently noted utilities are not doing photovoltaic projects now. He suggests shifting focus from the Utility PhotoVoltaic Group to incorporate the Million Solar Roofs, and to focus on roofs, not the utility grid. Utilities just aren't deploying products. "Big manufacturers are down on this program in a big way," he says, citing a survey of SEIA's biggest members.

Sklar suggests a heart-to-heart with utilities. "That's going to have to be brokered right now," he says. "I think we have to sit down with the people that are going to be on the board¼ explain where our guys are coming from."

Sklar explains the White House announced its Million Solar Roofs program last June, then in early December formed an inter-agency coordinating group. Tax credits existed for commercial users and were created for residential users. SEIA is trying to get buy-downs, lending and federal procurement for the program. In a November speech, Clinton gave a federal government building commitment of 20,000 roofs by 2015.

11:21 A.M. Liebman wraps up the meeting: "The sun shines on us wherever we may go."

Sklar packs his tricks kit to take to Sen. Jeffords' office. Solar roofing shingles, a solar-powered point-and-shoot camera and a solar-powered battery recharger. He'll meet with Kenneth M. Connolly, legislative director, and Lisa Carter, legislative fellow.

Getting into the Caravan, Sklar talks about the Million Solar Roofs program. "You know how they say watch what you wish for, because sometimes it comes true? A Million Solar Roofs is just that."

The federal inter-agency process is supposed to help in areas of federal procurement, lending and buy-downs. Working with government is like peeling an onion, he says. "In some cases, the political people agree and it energizes the bureaucracy. In many cases, the bureaucracy agrees and I have to educate the upper political people that their own agents support this¼ so it's sort of nuts."

Late for the 11 a.m. meeting, Sklar accelerates into traffic, makes an illegal right on red, mentions his dismal parking ticket record and how he alone has kept the city afloat.

Within three minutes he's in sight of the Senate building complex.

"This! Look at this!" he yells, eyeing a parking space