SLO economic agency does not support local business

September 5, 2014
John Ewan

John Ewan


Last fall, in three months’ time, the Economic Vitality Corporation of San Luis Obispo (EVC), raised over $100,000.00 in fees from SLO county residents installing photovoltaic systems. The EVC gave ¾ of this money, $78,000.00, to an out of county non-profit – the Community Environmental Council (CEC) of Santa Barbara.

This summer the EVC is again collecting fees from SLO County residents installing photovoltaic systems, and again, the EVC is giving ¾ of this money to the Santa Barbara based CEC. The program through which they collect this money is called “Solarize SLO.”

Why? The EVC says the money is needed to “promote the solar industry.” Yet the solar industry has been a bright spot in this dismal economy, growing each year in San Luis Obispo County and throughout California and the nation. This growth is attributed to many factors, not the least of which is the staggering drop in cost of PV, by almost 50 percent since 2009. This along with ever increasing electricity costs makes solar electric system sales self-generating.

How? The EVC along with the CEC solicit local installers to apply to become their approved solar contracting companies. These companies agree to pay the EVC 5 percent of the total cost of each system in order to be one of two companies promoted as the CEC “vetted” company.

Last fall, out of the 14 solar companies in SLO County listed by the state as Solar Electric Installers, only two applied. Both were accepted, both agreed to the EVC/CEC terms and both passed the surcharge fees through to the EVC. It is happening again this summer, again with only two companies agreeing to collect and pass surcharge fees through to the EVC.

Where? All of San Luis Obispo County is included in this program to transfer funds to the Santa Barbara based CEC. Why the EVC has decided to fund a Santa Barbara nonprofit instead of SLO County nonprofits (such as EcoSlo or GreenBuild or the Land Conservancy) is a reasonable question. Perhaps the economic vitality of San Luis Obispo County is just not as important as that of Santa Barbara County.

When? After receiving the tacit approval of its Board of Directors (the incorporated cities and the county of SLO make up 25 percent of the EVC Board) the EVC staff is re-running this program for four months this summer, siphoning off even more of SLO resident’s money to support the vitality of the Santa Barbara based CEC.

Why are our County’s elected representatives agreeing to and supporting the transfer of jobs to only two companies and the transfer of our money to an out of county non-profit?

What to do? There are at least twelve solid solar electric contracting companies in San Luis Obispo County which are not levying the EVC/Solarize surcharge on their customers. Contact any one of them for a competitive quote and give your savings to the local non-profit of your choice. Then contact your elected representative and ask, “Why did you support sending our money to Santa Barbara?”

John Ewan is the owner of Pacific Energy Company, and began selling solar electric systems in 1980. In 2013, John was honored by SOLARWORLD America as their longest continuous photovoltaic dealer. He has served as a member of the SLO City Council, chaired the; SLO Chamber of Commerce Board, EcoSLo Board, SLO GreenBuild Board, SLO APCD Board and served on the EVC Board of Directors.

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Anytime I hear “contact your elected representative” my eyes glaze over, and I move on. Our reliance and continued support of a structured government that not only does not support alternative means of energy, but is in the pocket of bigger organizations that use highly dangerous methods-prevents progress. I am not speaking of only solar energy here.

Honestly, I am surprised, but grateful, that some County bureaucrat has not tried to mandate a 5% surcharge on Solar installs that goes to some boondoggle program (and into the pocket of someone’s brother-in-law or political supporter)