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Let's Schmooze Scott Sklar, Sunny Side Up

Fortnightly Magazine - April 15 1998

percent of utilities feel they can't invest because of restructuring. "Regulators are saying 'Don't get adventuresome.'"

The lobbyist says the Utility PhotoVoltaic Group has learned that DOE funding hasn't been steady. His idea is to block dollars to states and broker investment out, some to the traditional financial community. "Capital will drive acceptance," he says.

"The danger is putting too much out there¼ creating too artificial a market," the DOE official counters. He later notes that the solar industry is not uniform across the U.S. Some areas are ready to go, others are afraid. "You can go out and make this an opportunity or the alternative is it's too late."

4:23 P.M. Matt Cheney, director of Utility PhotoVoltaic Group, and Charles W. Linderman, director of EEI's fossil fuels and renewable programs, join the meeting.

Cheney has good news: His group has 26 new proposals worth $86.5 million for rooftop solar systems. Not all are from utilities and about $15 million of that will be funded by the federal government.

4:35 P.M. Sklar glances at his solar-powered watch, perhaps thinking about picking up his 4-year-old daughter, Stella, at day care.

"You guys are the market," the DOE official says. "I'm waiting to get your comments back because you are the market. Do you see what I'm getting at?"

Sklar: "In usual government programs, the government always comes up and tells us what it's going to do and then we whine about it and shape the clay and get something done¼ [now] we've got to present it on a tray to [you]¼"

"It's your call, Scott."

5:04 P.M. The meeting ends. Sklar is out the door, people yelling for him down the hallway, their voices echoing in the hallway. "Back in a minute!" he answers. He doesn't return.

"I don't think the federal government can tell anybody to do anything," he says in the elevator. "So my goal is how do we drive capital (em people with money. Some of it by government, some (em " the door opens and he strides toward the lobby door, toward the lowering sun.

5:15 P.M. The way to Arlington is paved with a discussion of patient money (money with long returns, sometimes from Asian investors), institutional money and philanthropic money. Sklar says he doesn't want government to fund the roofs initiative; he wants costs shared. The UPVG six-to-one cost share is a good one, he says. Since 1992, Fannie Mae has done only one energy-efficient mortgage, maybe a few others, he says. That's "not acceptable."

5:27 P.M. Sklar bounds out of the van, picks up his daughter at her day care center, buckles her into her car seat, then drives to his house, parking on the wrong side of the street for efficiency's sake. Stella heads inside for a toy while her dad gives a nickel tour of the toys outside: solar panels on the roof for the solar water heater, refrigerator and to charge the electric car. The neighbor's driveway is home to a small trailer of PV panels (em single crystal, polycrystalline and thin film.