Town Halls! Phone calls! Letters! Wow! How your actions have made a difference

Defending rooftop solar from the utilities and their government enablers is a bit of a roller coaster ride.

 Over the last few years, we’ve learned some important lessons on how to beat back the utilities, and we’ve had some important wins that have kept rooftop solar alive in California.

We are publishing these lessons so that our shared Alliance can be more effective than ever in the years to come—and so that we can turn the tide together!

1) Talking to your elected representatives in person is extremely effective

This is one big reason why 22 state Assemblymembers recently spoke out against the Utility Tax. Several of these lawmakers said they were moved by numerous constituents who attended their town hall meetings this fall. 

It is also a major reason why 355 cities and counties have moved towards compliance with the Solar Access Act, making it easier to get a permit to install solar and batteries. Many people like you attended their local City Council meetings to speak in favor of this simple step. Those efforts impressed Mayors and Councilmembers in part because so few people attend local government meetings these days, so these actions stand out.

If you were among the hundreds of people who attended your legislator’s Town hall event or spoke at a City Council meeting this year, take a bow! If you are interested in attending your legislator’s next town hall meeting, here is some guidance.

Dave from Orange County spoke directly with the Mayor and City Council and helped persuade them to make it easier to get a permit to install solar and batteries. 

2) Phone calls are simple, short, and powerful

It was August 2022. The utilities and their allies in Gov. Newsom’s administration had snuck a Solar Tax provision into an unrelated piece of legislation. State legislators were being heavily pressured by Gov. Newsom to pass this bill in just 72 hours, Solar Tax and all. 

After exhausting efforts to convince Newsom Administration officials to remove the Solar Tax provision, we alerted the public. We urged people to phone their state Assemblymembers and Senators to oppose the bill.

Over a four hour period, nearly all 120 members of the state Legislature received hundreds of angry calls from their constituents. Some legislators got more than a thousand calls. 

Shortly after the phone calls began flooding in, Governor Newsom’s office changed course and agreed to our demands. The Solar Tax was defeated. 

Keep this story in mind anytime you have doubts about the power of your phone calls!

Cherene from Southern California is one of tens of thousands of solar users who peppered their state legislators with phone calls to stop the Solar Tax.

3) Spreading the word really does "go viral"

We’ve lost count of the number of people who told us they took action because a friend, neighbor, or family member told them about what the utilities are trying to do. Clearly, a huge number of the people who take action do so because you shared it. 

This often happens when people share our alerts on Next Door, Facebook, Instagram, X, and other social media platforms.

And just as many people have found it effective to share our messages in other ways:

  • Good old-fashioned email
  • Distributing printed flyers to solar users in their neighborhood
  • Making an announcement at their local church group
  • Hosting an information table at a local farmers’ market

The bottom line: when it comes to actions and alerts, any form of sharing is good and effective!

Susanna from the Bay Area hosted a “phone your legislator to stop the Utility Tax” event at her local farmers’ market. They successfully got local passersby to make calls on the spot to the local state legislators. Our staff helped Susanna plan the event, make materials, and recruit local volunteers.

4) Letters to the editor: old-school and effective

Rene from Northern California has never met a newspaper article that he could not turn into an opportunity to write a letter to the editor. He holds the Solar Rights Alliance record for the most number of letters to the editor published—at least two dozen by our count!

Many more of you from every corner of the state have also gotten your letters published. Every letter is read by thousands of people. Over time, your letters educate millions of Californians about the threats to rooftop solar. They prompt editors and reporters to focus more coverage on the issue. Politicians read them, too, as a way of putting their fingers in the wind. 

So don’t get mad the next time your blood boils over something you see (or don’t see) in your local paper with respect to solar. Instead, get your computer out! Dash off a 150 word response using this guidance.

Want one of our staff to give you quick feedback before you hit send? Email your draft to [email protected] with subject line: “Please review this LTE.” We’ll respond quickly.

5) Keep your message simple

Most of us don’t have engineering, science, or law degrees. Neither do many of the politicians that represent you. Even the elected officials that do are often too busy to understand the details of most issues before them.

In other words, the old saying “Keep It Simple Stupid (K.I.S.S.)” is true! That means that whether you are sharing information with neighbors, communicating with decision-makers, or talking to the media, follow these guidelines:

  • Make one point, and one point only
  • Use statistics sparingly—one strong supporting fact will do
  • Repeat your main point in conclusion
  • It should take less than 2 minutes to make your point
  • Include a link to where your audience can get more information if they wish

To be clear, we believe our information must be supported with strong evidence. We provide citations in all of our published materials. 

That said, the most effective people are those who boil their communication down to a simple main point that takes less than two minutes to say.

6) Look for opportunities to have ongoing dialogue with your elected representatives

Rob from San Jose and Dency from Los Angeles learned this fall that the first interaction with their legislators was not enough to persuade them to oppose the Utility Tax. However, it did open the door. 

Both of these solar users treated their first conversation as a door-opener. Both attended follow-up events hosted by their legislators. At those events, they presented additional information that addressed the points the legislators initially raised. They sent additional emails addressing other questions.

In both cases, their Assemblymembers ended up publicly opposing the Utility Tax. 

You can win legislators over with a little bit of persistence! Many of you have reported back on your verbal and written conversations with your legislators. Thank you! Please keep doing that! We are here to give you guidance on how to build those relationships with your elected officials, and effectively address their issues.

Rob from San Jose (center, pictured with Solar Rights Alliance staff) has kept up a continuing dialogue with his state legislators through local “meet and greet” events. Many others have done the same, with good results. These efforts may very well be the antidote for the utilities’ pernicious influence. 

Thank you for all you do!!

Whether it is letters, calls, town hall meetings, or sharing actions with friends—you are the hero of this story. You are what makes the Solar Rights Alliance tick. Thank you for all you do!

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