Solar Advocates can either follow the step-by-step process below to setup their
own Energy Efficiency/Solar Town Hall Meeting or you can call the Arizona Solar Power
Society at 602-326-0940 and we will set up everything for you.
Here is a step-by-step solar community outreach template that can be used by
solar advocates and communities to plan, research, find a venue, select a host,
line up speakers, and market a Energy Efficiency/Solar Town Hall Meeting to the general public.
The best way to raise awareness for energy efficiency and solar installations is to
conduct community outreach programs. Producing big events that are free to attend is
one of the best ways to educate large groups of people quickly. If 100 people attend
and they tell five of their friends, suddenly you have 500 people that understand
the importance of reducing energy consumption and using solar energy to heat water and generate
You would be surprised at the number of people that do not realize that there are
hundreds of millions of dollars waiting for them that will pay up to 70-80% of the solar system
and installation costs.
Community Outreach Programs should include the following topics:
- Energy Efficiency
- Solar Thermal Hot Water Heaters
- Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Power Arrays
For each topic, there are two classes of customers:
For each class of customers there are multiple pools of money available to subsidize portions of the
system and installation costs and finance agreements that can be used to pay for the out-of-pockets costs:
- Federal Tax Credits/Federal Tax Grants
- State Tax Credits
- Utility Rebates
- Energy Efficient Home Mortgages (203K Loans)
- Power Purchase Agreements
- Energy District Finance Programs
- Feed-in Tariffs
Selecting a location is very important to the success of the event. The event needs
to be large enough to handle the projected attendance. Possible venues include
convention centers, chambers of commerce, economic development offices, public libraries,
schools, churches, movie theaters, fair grounds, Rotary Clubs, American Legion Posts, feed stores,
and many other types of local social gathering spots including the local coffee shop.
Following the outline above, you should host multiple events that cover important topics
on energy efficiency, solar thermal water heaters and solar power arrays. You should invite
subject matter experts to discuss the technologies, the financial incentives available to help
customers pay for the installation as well as the potential return on investment.
Identifying the right community leaders to host important solar community outreach programs is
a very important part of the process.
Good places to start include: Chambers of Commerce, City Councils,
Community Services, Congress of Neighborhood Planning Committees, Design Review Boards,
Economic Development Advisory, Environmental Councils, Industrial Development, Planning Commissions,
Re-Development Commissions, Utility Boards, etc. These groups of people are managed by the
people that make the decisions for your community.
Most of these groups hold open meetings that the general public can attend. Before each meeting
there is usually an agenda that is posted that describes what issues the group plans to address at the meeting
as well as a formal process that anyone can use to request an opportunity to speak at one of these
meetings to bring up new topics they would like to see added to the community's agenda.
Before interacting with these organizations or asking to be put on the open meeting agenda, you should
attend several open meetings in order to learn how the organization works. Learn the format and
the procedures the groups like to see followed. Some government bodies will have a website
and some even make it possible to view or listen in to the open meetings via the Internet.
This is an excellent way to learn how meetings operate and how to best communicate with important
elected city and town officials.
Each group usually has a board of directors or a council. Each member will have their
own set of pros and cons on issues that affect the community. It important to learn who the members are
solar and those who do not. It is also important to learn what types of questions these members
usually ask of constituents. When approaching anti-solar officials, make sure that you well thought
out responses to negative questions or concerns before you step into the meeting. If you want to
succeed it is very important to generate a long list of questions that you think you might be asked.
Develop a well polished response for each question. The worst thing you can say is "I don't know."
People who do not know usually do not have much credibility.
Please note that the members of these councils usually have a heavy load on their plates and
are pressed for time. The goal is to be quick, precise and be completely prepared before addressing
them in an open meeting.
Once you have identified potential hosts that seem to be pro-solar or pro-environment, put
together a hand written invitation that explains the who, what, where, when and why details of
the event. Also explain why you think they would be the best person to host a solar community
outreach program and how it might help them build better relationships with the people that vote
for them and keep them in office. Reducing or eliminating electricity bills, reducing our
dependency on foreign oil and making our state a better place to breathe are all topics that
sit well with the general public.
It also helps to develop message points for them to use when they host an event.
Prepare them with the facts and figures that back up the business case for migrating to
energy efficient solar buildings. Inundate them with interesting background information,
which is backed up by third party, independent research reports, white papers and government
Turning community leaders into solar subject matter experts will not only make
them a great host for your event, but also will provide them with sufficient written information
that can be used to educate other community leaders and provide proof that moving toward energy
efficiency and alternative energy is a very good business decision.
Once you have identified a community leader to serve as a host, the next step is to
line up a panel of energy efficiency and/or solar subject matter experts to confirm the
business case for your energy efficiency or solar community outreach event.
It would be wise to include one or more of the following subject matter experts:
Energy Efficiency/Solar Installation Companies - The most important speakers will be
people that work in the energy efficiency and solar
installation businesses. They are familiar with the different technologies that are available,
can explain the installation processes and know how to process the paper work needed to obtain
rebates and tax incentives. Most companies will be glad to speak at events because they know it
will lead to prospective customers that want to make their homes and businesses more energy
efficient and find ways to produce free solar power.
Utility Companies - All regulated utility companies are required by law to promote their
energy efficiency programs and renewable energy programs such as solar, wind and geothermal.
They are required by the Arizona Corporation Commission to conduct community outreach programs
and are always looking for new and cost-effective ways to reach the general public. Attending community outreach
programs helps the utility meet their yearly requirements and they will be glad to come and
speak at your events.
Economic Development Leaders - Most towns have an economic development council or planning and
zoning committees. These officials make good speakers because they understand the economic impact of the
jobs and revenue that will be spent in their towns on the products and services needed to complete these
types of installations.
Elected Officials - Members of Congress, Arizona State Legislators, and Arizona Corporation
Commissioners like to attend these types of community outreach meetings because they understand the
importance of energy efficiency and renewable energy for their voting districts. Mayors, City Council
Members and Chamber of Commerce Leaders also will enjoy speaking at Solar Community Outreach Programs.
Local Bankers - Senior members of banks also make good speakers. They will be instrumental
in developing financial programs needed to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Sometimes
banks will work with third party lease finance companies such as
1BOG to arrange
community-wide finance programs.
Law Firms - Senior members of law firms will have interest in attending these events because
they it will lead to new prospects that will need help filing corporate paperwork, articles of incorporation,
tax structures and starting new lines of law practice such as writing cost-effective power purchase agreements.
As the organizer, it is your responsibility to line up a panel of congruent speakers. The series
of powerpoint presentations should flow in a logical manner like chapters in a book.
For example, you might invite this series of speakers:
the Mayor, the owner of a Solar Installation Company, a utility company executive, a member of the local
economic development council, and a local banker, real estate agent or title company.
Making presentations in this manner is a very effective way to explain to the community
why energy efficiency and solar installations will benefit not only their own household, but
the community they live in, as well as how each household can do their part.
A good place to post the information that you record during your events is on popular social networking
sites such as Meetup.com, Linkedin.com, Facebook.com, Twitter.com, Myspace.com, Youtube.com and
numerous industry BLOGS.
As you generate news stories with print, broadcast and Internet news website, keep a log and post the articles
and videos online so that new solar advocates can find them while searching the internet for information on
energy efficiency and solar power topics.
Work with local solar installation companies to keep track of the resulting solar installations that occur. Once one home in a neighborhood
install solar on their homes many other neighbors will become interested and will follow their example.
After a month or two interview satisfied customers and post their customer testimonials online so that other prospective customers
will be encouraged to make energy efficiency upgrades and install solar water heaters and solar power arrays.