An interview with Neal from American Solar Energy Society

I met with Neal Lurie, who is Director of Marketing & Communications at
American Solar Energy Society. His job is to make sure that everyone knows
about the good work ASES is doing to increase the use of solar energy.

Eco-Blogger: Tell me a little about the American Solar Energy Society?

Neal Lurie: We’ve been around for over 50 years,  probably started long
before most people had even heard of solar energy. Today we’re leading the
renewable energy revolution. We’re a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the
use of solar energy and energy efficiency across the United States with a
primary focus on education and outreach. We have some great programs and
resources to help people learn more about solar. For example, the first week
in October is the ASES National Solar Tour, which occurs in nearly all 50
states and gives the public an opportunity to tour solar homes and get
first-hand testimonials and tips from neighbors who went solar
(www.nationalsolartour.org). Last year more than 115,000 people attended.
Another great resource is our magazine called Solar Today. It comes
complementary with an ASES membership. These and our many other programs
help people learn what options there are in solar, best practices, tips and
how-tos.

EB: How are you getting the word out about solar?

NL: Talking to people like you.  The Solar industry is booming and that is
for a few reasons. One, the cost of conventional forms of energy is rising;
two, the cost of renewable forms of energy continues to  become price
competitive, and three, people are looking to tackle climate change. This
combination of factors is driving unprecedented interest in solar energy. I
mean, if people are presented with a choice to get energy from a polluting
source like coal or from a clean source, like solar, it really is a
no-brainer. Economically and environmentally, it just makes sense.

EB: What does a boom mean for the Solar industry?

NL: Booming means annual growth of more than 40% year. There are some
sources that report that the solar sector grew at 57% last year. It depends
on the study but this illustrates that people are hungry to find new sources
of energy and they’re looking to learn more about solar.

In some cities, like in Boulder, many of the codes promote sustainability
and more energy efficient buildings. But among the public, when it comes to
solar, there is a big misperception. A lot of people think of solar energy
exclusively as generating electricity, without even considering solar
thermal heating for their showers, spas, where the payback can be even
quicker. There can be federal and state incentives for many forms of solar,
which can sweeten the deal. But the first step is to educate yourself on the
different solar options, and a good place to start is to visit our Web site
(www.ases.org). Another great resource is the dsireusa.org site, which
offers state by state comparisons of what the solar rebates are.

Something to keep in mind is that there is a sense of urgency to take
advantage of federal incentives for solar as they are currently set to
expire this Dec. Now, there is an excellent coalition of which we are part
of working to extend these incentives, but if folks are thinking about going
solar, now is a good time.

EB: What are some of ASES’ most recent successes?

NL: There are many, but here are a couple of examples. We just rolled out  a
groundbreaking report, which quantifies the number of green jobs across the
country and their economic impact. This is exciting as it is the first
comprehensive, national economic report on the renewable energy and energy
efficiency sectors. In the past, the talk about renewable energy was as if
it was always years away, something for the future. But this report shows
that the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors already generate 8.5
million jobs and nearly a trillion dollars in annual revenue in the U.S.You
can download the report at: http://www.ases.org/ASES-JobsReport-Final.pdf
This type of reports starts shifting the debate from something that "is this
good for the environment" to "this industry creates jobs and boosts the U.S.
economy". There’s been a lot of attention around the topic of green-collar
jobs lately and we feel  this report has been a major catalyst. Even the
presidential candidates have begun to talk about the importance of
green-collar jobs. So, the word is getting out.

Another success is that we recently rolled out our tackling climate change
report
that took a detailed look at how renewable energy and energy
efficiency can help mitigate the impacts of climate change. What we found is
that these sectors can play a huge role in helping to reduce carbon
emissions to the levels we need to get to by 2050. The measures outlined in
this report show how these technologies can help to mitigate the impacts of
climate change. You can download the report at:

Together, these two reports shows that solar energy (and other forms of
renewables) can not only help tackle climate change but also boost our
economy. Our goal is to then help promote the education and outreach needed
to keep accelerating the use of renewable energy/energy efficiency practices
and to promote policies at state and national level.

EB: Why do you keep mentioning Renewable Energy/Energy Efficiency?

NL: RE/EE are two sides of same coin. People often look at energy issues in
the context of how we can generate more energy, to increase the available
supply. The more immediate results, though, are generated through efficiency
and reducing demand for various forms of energy. In our report, we showed
that over the next few decades, energy efficiency can play an even bigger
role in reducing carbon emission than renewable energy. For example, it is
easier to use a more energy efficient car than to find a new source of fuel
to run the car.

EB: Why would an individual be interested in joining ASES?

NL: The biggest reason is that the best way to start tackling our energy
problems, like cost, security, climate change, is to work as part of a
coalition and to work collaboratively to address these issues head-on. These
issues need widespread involvement to make that happen.  One example of a
collaborative effort is at the ASES National Solar Conference in San Diego.
This is the 37th year of the conference (we run it). The conference brings
together many of the leading experts on renewable energy to a single
location to share ideas, insight, and breakthroughs. Wide ranging topics are
discussed to help attendees understand where solar is headed, where it is
now, and how it will play an increasing role in generating green-collar
jobs.

EB: Anything else you would like to mention?

NL: One other thing, there is another great site called findsolar.org  that
we help coordinate, which allows users to calculate an estimate to install
solar energy in their community. People can type in their zip code and what
they currently spend on energy find out what federal, state and local
rebates may be available and what the total costs might come out to. It is a
ballpark figure but it is a good place to begin.

EB: Thanks, Neal. And good luck

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