The nonprofit Solar Foundation will soon become part of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), merging two groups with a common vision for an increasingly clean-powered grid.
The organizational union announced Thursday is the latest in a series of moves by renewable energy groups to unite around a common goal of producing the majority of the U.S.’ electricity, rather than pursuing that work from different technological focuses.
The American Wind Energy Association, for instance, announced in September it would merge into a new group called the American Clean Power Association to better advocate for a variety of renewable solutions. In June, AWEA, along with solar, hydropower and storage industry trade groups, also introduced a joint vision to achieve “majority renewables” by 2030.
And in 2015, the Solar Electric Power Association and the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid merged under the new name Smart Electric Power Alliance to focus on policies to promote increased integration of distributed energy resources from across the spectrum.
IREC and the Solar Foundation both cited a similar vision for their merger, which will focus on amplifying their work where it overlaps, particularly in workforce development and training on local codes and standards for renewable installations.
“Working beyond solar made a lot of sense,” said Solar Foundation CEO Andrea Luecke, who will step down from her position. "There's a push for clean energy and an emphasis on...technology-agnosticism. We really felt that trend."
The financial merger of the two groups is expected to be complete by June 2021, said IREC CEO Larry Sherwood, who will head the new organization.
Both organizations receive federal funds, concentrate on workforce development and work on reducing barriers to renewable deployment on the local level. Each also has unique projects. The Solar Foundation leads a solar business accelerator program in Puerto Rico, for instance. In addition to solar, IREC works on energy storage and grid modernization.
Luecke said the Solar Foundation, founded in 1977 and relaunched in 2010, began investigating a merger about two years ago when it decided it could be more effective if it joined up with another group rather than competing for limited funding and resources.
Both groups will continue to work on their existing programs — including the Solar Diversity Study for the Solar Foundation — as the merger proceeds. Sherwood said IREC is still evaluating which Solar Foundation employee roles will also join the new organization, though the nonprofit expects to take on most staff.
“We will be evaluating all the staff positions, and we expect to move most of those positions over to IREC, but it may not be 100 percent of the positions,” he told GTM. “We have not made a final decision on that at this time.”