Rhone Resch to step down as SEIA CEO


Today Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) announced that Rhone Resch will step down as its CEO on May 31, 2016. SEIA says that it will name an interim leader and conduct a search for a new executive to lead the organization before Resch leaves.

Resch has served as CEO of SEIA since 2004, during which time the U.S. solar industry has undergone a profound transformation. During the first year that Resch served as CEO the U.S. installed less than 60 MW of solar PV, nearly all of which was on rooftops; by 2015 this had increased more than ten-fold to over 7 GW, with utility-scale projects representing the majority of new capacity.

During Resch’s tenure a number of policy victories have underscored this growth, from the establishment of the 30% investment tax credit (ITC) in 2005 and its extension in 2008 to the passage of renewable energy mandates including solar and distributed generation “carve-outs” in dozens of U.S. states.

Resch also served as CEO during the trade war spurred by SolarWorld’s petition over Chinese dumping and subsidizing of solar PV products. During the process of the first trade case in 2012 SEIA moved from a neutral observer to an opponent of import duties, arguing that more U.S. jobs are created by installation of solar than manufacturing and that price increases would affect deployment.

The U.S. solar industry has thrived despite two sets of import duties, which did not result in either the threatened market decline and job losses or a large-scale return of U.S. solar manufacturing.

But perhaps what Resch will be most remembered for is last winter’s surprise extension of the ITC through compromise legislation, which analysts say will prevent a crash of the solar market in 2017. SEIA took up the cause of ITC extension despite considerable doubt in the industry that victory was possible given a difficult environment for renewables in the U.S. congress.

This victory speaks to another element of Resch’s leadership: bipartisanship. Under Resch SEIA has stressed its ability to work "across the aisle", even as Republicans were fiercely attacking U.S. President Obama’s clean energy policies and renewable energy in general.

Neither Resch nor SEIA gave a specific reason for the departure other than suggesting that his work may now be done. “I am honored to have been able to contribute to building an industry that has such a positive impact on the U.S. economy, our energy security and the environment,” stated Resch in a letter to membership.

“With the ITC extended through 2021 and solar energy markets growing throughout the country, now is the right time for me to move on to new challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”