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Let's Schmooze Scott Sklar, Sunny Side Up

Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1998

within walking distance. "Unbelievable. Uh-oh. 'No Parking.' Well, alright." He zips in anyway, right in front of the Metropolitan Police station.

Half running, trench coat flapping as if he's going to leave ground, Sklar heads for the Dirkson building's side entrance. He's dodging trees and bushes that edge the parking lot, leaving tracks in the mud. "You've got to be nimble," he says. "To be a lobbyist, you've got to get around."

In the elevator, he says he hopes to raise issues related to supplemental appropriations for solar energy. "On the supplemental, it's sort of a strategy on what we've got to do to either have meetings with [Sen. Pete V.] Domenici or do a floor action." A floor action could win funding by adding amendments to an appropriations bill.

11:33 A.M. In Jefford's anteroom, Sklar is warmly welcomed and ushered into a conference room by the two aides. He distributes photovoltaic home design software and pamphlets. Carter questions the shiny ink: "¼recycled paper?"

"Soy ink, don't start with me, lady!" he fires back jokingly.

Then the tour de force: the roofing shingles.

Connolly: "How much does this cost?"

"Ten times more than a regular roofing shingle," Sklar says. For the average house, that's about $40,000. "But remember, this is the first automated plant to run it¼ We're in generation one and the whole deal is to get to generation two and three."

Connolly: "I'll never forget when we announced the Greening of the White House in '93. Scott Sklar standing up in the Indian Treaty room with his gadget¼"

"My solar security light? Saying why can't we have these on the White House?"

"You had a lot of good ideas¼"

"And the security and aesthetics bureaucracy go crazy."

Carter: "These shingles would fit right in with any other shingle."

Then Sklar works into the serious stuff: net metering, appropriations, tax credits.

SEIA has campaigned in states to get net metering legislated. Net metering sets interconnection standards to tie photovoltaics to the utility grid. It allows homeowners to use and contract for simpler standards, instead of complex solutions costing thousands of dollars. So far, 20 states have passed net metering laws.

Sklar says a national standard is needed since "patchwork" requirements hurt industry in the cost of doing business. He says the political right supports the agenda because net metering is about property rights and freedom of choice; the left wing supports net metering for its environmentalism and free choice.

The Jeffords legislative director switches gears: "On the appropriations end, this is our year. And it seems that in the past we've worked, and continue to want to work, with Sen. Domenici. He's always been good working with us. This year looks like the year we need to build a strong coalition and go for the numbers, obviously much higher than last year."

"But you have to be hungry and tough on this stuff," Sklar insists. "I don't believe typically in an election year, that you can lose a vote on renewable energy, because you get an Energy Star from the League