Ex-Solaria employee joins California Energy Commission

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Governor Jerry Brown's latest appointment to the California Energy Commission was sworn in last night and was warmly greeted by solar companies as a champion for the industry.

David Hochschild, 41, was previously Vice President of External Relations at solar developer and manufacturer Solaria from 2007 to 2012. He served on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and founded the advocacy group Vote Solar.

Although he has yet to be given a brief by the governor, the California solar industry is still waiting for Governor Brown to move ahead with his campaign pledge for 12GW of distributed generation by 2020.

California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency and works alongside the California Public Utilities Commission and has responsibilities to forecast future energy demand, develop renewable energy resources and licence thermal power plants larger than 50MW.

At the swearing in at San Francisco's new PUC building, Hochschild was short on specifics, but he said: “My gratitude goes to the governor for laying out such bold vision. We have to transform this state, this nation and this world away from polluting fossil fuels. Admittedly it's a very steep mountain to climb but we know we can do it because of the victories we've already won.”

Hochschild told PV-Tech that he would bring business experience blended with policy, business and advocacy experience. “I haven't started yet so I don't know what my portfolio will be. But one of the things the governor is looking for was the business experience. I've spent the last five years in Silicon Valley at a solar business and I've also been in public service.”

Adam Browning, Executive Director at Vote Solar, said: “David will also be highly focused on understanding and putting a number on the value of distributed generation. The governor's goal of 12GW of DG is still out there and [we need to continue] the programmes that will deliver.

“We have a lot of efforts that are getting there, but a lot of them are under threat – the NEM programme has a sunset date and it's dependent on a cost benefit analysis of the value of DG. We need to make sure that analysis captures everything.”

Greg Rosen, Chief Investment Officer at crowdfunding company Mosaic, said: “We don't think there's a better person in California that is more suited to this role and add as much value as David. He really has a robust understanding of not only the policy, politics and a good sense of the technology and really also how that relates to the public at large. Knowledgeable people in areas of policy development are really critical.

“The [12GW goal is] a really important goal for the state. We'll hopefully see a combination of legislative and regulatory modifications changes that help to support that goal, a goal that we at Mosaic strongly support.”

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