Nimble Communications Strategies in the Wake of Unexpected Policy Changes

Family with little daughter standing in front of their house with solar panels on the roof, having electric car.

I received an email alert from a nonprofit last week about a seemingly flagrant play to kill – or at least maim –  the solar+storage industry in California. 

The Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) here has proposed prohibiting licensed solar contractors from adding a battery to a solar system they already installed, or making repairs or modifications to an existing solar and storage system that they previously installed. The board has also proposed limiting the size of the battery that solar contractors can install. 

Why? Because they want licensed electricians to be able to do that work. This is a major disconnect and bad news for homeowners.

Most solar and battery systems are installed by licensed solar contractors rather than electricians. The solar contractor’s license is a specialty trade that has been around for over forty years in California. Licensed solar contractors train more extensively on battery installations than licensed electricians because it is such a core part of what they do.

Usually if a homeowner wants to add a battery to their existing solar system or make repairs or modifications to their existing battery, they have the original solar installer do the work — or they risk voiding their warranty.

Thus, these proposals put the consumer in an impossible situation, where state regulations would force them to hire someone else to do the work and void their warranty in the process.

In addition, these rules would eliminate thousands of existing local solar companies and workers from their own market, including very experienced battery installers. This would limit choices for consumers and drive up the cost of getting solar and/or a battery.

All signs point to the utilities being behind this move. For years, utilities like PGE have been lobbying CSLB to outright revoke the ability for licensed solar contractors to install batteries, and to have batteries be in the exclusive jurisdiction of licensed electricians only. Their likely objective is to use highly technical changes through a little-known government process to further hamper the rooftop solar and battery market.

We forwarded this to our client, a major solar panel manufacturer and battery provider, who then sent it on to their public affairs team for action. Political moves such as this force clients to deal with sudden changes, and communications strategies must be flexible in order to deal with impending positive or negative policy decisions. 

Here at Blue Practice we keep tabs on climate tech industry policy so that our clients can be informed. We then quickly discuss the best way to adjust our communications to respond to the policy, perhaps with prepared statements that we may send to the press about a particular issue, or perhaps with the development of an executive viewpoint piece that we will place in the trade or business press. 

Having an agency that keeps its ear to the ground to anticipate industry-changing policy can allow you to work together to craft an optimized strategy that addresses critical questions from your diverse audiences. Even if the policy change is unsuccessful you still will have been prepared. To find out more about how we can help you stay nimble, give us a shout.