Summer is coming. And that means that season four of HBO’s adaptation of Game of Thrones has ended. Impatient to know what comes next, I’ve started reading the books, and as I’m reading, it strikes me that the dynamics of our little U.S. solar industry realm has some similarities to the medieval world imagined in George RR Martin’s series.
Now, I’m the first to admit that the following analogies are very general, but…what the heck! It’s summer. Let’s play…
U.S. Utilities as the Iron Throne. Those who control the grid control the Iron Energy Throne, and that’s about where we are right now with many utilities doing everything in their power to…well…protect their dirty energy power. Pun intended. With their slick PR campaigns and lobbyists, they’re constantly waging war to stop the Solar Usurpers from capturing the grid with universal net metering, virtual net metering, and our young but powerful Distributed Dragons: solar micro-grids and cheap energy storage.
SolarCity as the Lannisters of Casterly Rock. I doubt the founders of SolarCity see themselves this way, but you have to admit that they’re one of the richest families in the solar realm with a 6.2 billion dollar capitalization as of this writing. As for “always paying their debts,” that remains to be seen, since they’re still not profitable. But with Chairman Elon Musk having such a golden touch, perhaps he will be the solar industry’s Jamie Lannister Utility King Slayer with SolarCity/Tesla’s ambitious panel manufacturing and battery venture.
Independent Solar Installers as The Free Cities. The Free Cities of Westeros are thought of as pretty wild and untamed. Similarly, we have a lot of small, hungry solar installer kingdoms that could collectively wage war against the Iron Energy Throne…if they organized themselves and worked together to defeat them. For now, however, they remain independent and fighting for their regional piece of the U.S. solar state kingdoms.
SEIA and Vote Solar as the Starks of Winterfell. It seems like it’s always SEIA and Vote Solar who are warning us that “Winter is coming.” In the books, the Starks of Winterfell are portrayed as the most honorable of the families, protecting the realm for the good of the Seven Kingdoms. They’re also known as the Builders of the land, and I think that’s an appropriate analogy too, since Vote Solar and SEIA help build solar policies. They’re also not very rich compared to the other families, but that doesn’t stop them from going into battle with the Iron Throne to do what’s right. In the same way, SEIA and Vote Solar wage battles with their solar policy swords, lobbyists, and campaign arrows.
SolarWorld as the Night’s Watch of Castle Black. If there’s one solar panel manufacturer that has valiantly tried to guard America’s walls against “The Others,” it’s got to be SolarWorld. They are the Night’s Watch, and although you may not see what these solar Men in Black are so frightened of, you have to admit that they’ve steadfastly kept to their mission all the way through two solar trade disputes, and they seem likely to keep fighting The Others, although some might argue that they are now The Others.
Back to non-fiction…
Okay, I’ve had my fun, but the truth is that our real life Solar Game of Thrones is more complex and much more serious than Mr. Martin’s fiction. Our solar industry is in a real PR battle with the Koch Brothers, the Edison Institute, and ALEC, who are doing their billion dollar best to prevent our solar industry from capturing the Energy Iron Throne.
If the solar industry’s goal is to power the world’s kingdoms with clean energy that anyone can produce, sell, or keep for their very own castle, the Koch Brothers and their 501k lackey organizations’ goals are to stop us and to maintain their energy rule.
We may not have the gold of the Lannisters or the Koch Brothers, but we do have our very real right to vote. So, if there’s one thing that you can do this election year, it’s to vote for representatives who sincerely support growing solar energy, not protecting the old, dirty energy and utility fiefdoms.
My solar friends, “Winter is coming,” so we should all… UnThink Solar.
Tor Valenza a.k.a. “Solar Fred” is a solar marketing and communications consultant and the author of Solar Fred’s Guide to Solar Guerrilla Marketing. Sign up for the Solar Fred Marketing Newsletter, or contact him through UnThink Solar. You can also follow @SolarFred on Twitter.