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Let's Schmooze Scott Sklar, Sunny Side Up

Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1998

a table and asks Edgar, the waiter, for a grapefruit, English muffin and cappuccino. Grapefruit pulp soon finds a home in his beard.

Sklar ticks off his daily goals, the most notable a "schmooze" with the staff of Vermont Sen. Jim W. Jeffords (R). One topic: S. 687, a bill proposing to support state programs for renewable energy sources and energy conservation. The bill offers a quid pro quo to utilities: a repeal of PURPA.

Jeffords brought a $10-million renewables research and development bill onto the floor of Congress last year, but it was cut to about $6 million, Sklar says. It was a setback for SEIA, which has no political action committee. "There's a group that's been formed to oppose the renewable energy portfolio standards in utility restructuring. They had a $13 million ad campaign." SEIA's war chest, combined with other renewable groups, was about $100,000.

But money doesn't buy everything. "We have a good story," Sklar says. He has ties to about 50 industry groups, partnerships with state organizations like the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, a network of friends and links to the Hill going back to when he worked for Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R) on military and energy issues.

Plus, he has solar gadgets warming up his side. "We use the 'gee whiz' factor," he says.

The Jeffords bill hardly looks passable, and Sklar admits it doesn't have "a snowball's chance in hell."

"Legislation is a dance," he explains. "And part of it is we know this year there won't be a utility restructuring bill. But it's important to lay out ideas and educate."

The bill raises questions as to whether Clean Air Act standards should be set in restructuring legislation or through reorganization of the Act. Sklar insists renewables will be worked into the energy mix, even if his group has to align with environmentalists (em which, as the day reveals, could be tougher than you'd think.

8:20 A.M. Jonathan W. Hurwitch joins Sklar at breakfast, apologizing for being late. (His watch is battery powered.)

"Don't be sorry," Sklar says. "We're schmoozing."

Hurwitch is president of Switch Technologies and executive director of the Energy Storage Association, which earns him the handle of "the battery guy." He orders an orange juice. "We on the record, off the record?"

Sklar tells Hurwitch not to worry.

"I actually admit he's my friend," Hurwitch says. "Unlike most people in town."

Sklar discloses how a week previous to this get-together he missed a meeting with Hurwitch when the White House wanted him to be an observer of Clinton's weekly radio show and to chat about the Million Solar Roofs program.

The solar pitchman explains that before heading to the White House, he grabbed his latest prop: solar roofing shingles, made by United Solar Corp. They look like traditional shingles, repel water, but they also produce electrons when the sun shines.

Sklar is a man clearly as enamored with his technology as with his contacts on the Hill, at federal agencies and at 1600 Pennsylvania