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Key questions on SEPA’s name change

Why has SEPA decided to change its name from the Solar Electric Power Association to Smart Electric Power Alliance? Why now?

Our new name captures the exciting and critical changes taking place in the energy industry. Solar is one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the United States, but it can only realize its full potential when partnered with complementary technologies that are intelligently integrated into a more dynamic and responsive electricity grid. In recognition of this evolving energy landscape, SEPA last year took two significant steps. We expanded our mission to include not only solar, but other distributed energy resources, such as storage, demand response and energy efficiency. We also joined forces with the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid (ADS). While the SEPA name is a trusted “brand” in the industry, we knew it needed to evolve to better communicate what our members do every day — develop new, cleaner and more efficient ways to generate, deliver and consume the power that drives our economy.

Does this mean you’re not going to be focused on solar anymore? Will you be adding other renewables, such as wind and geothermal, to your mission?

Our President and CEO Julia Hamm has stated clearly that utility deployment and integration of solar will continue to be a core focus for SEPA. Our expanded mission focuses on the distributed technologies now being developed, tested and deployed to better integrate solar onto the grid in ways that benefit all energy stakeholders — customers, utilities and other clean tech companies. We have no plans to expand our mission to include wind, geothermal or other renewables.

Another way we are underlining our ongoing commitment to solar is by making the official switch to our new name at our annual Utility Solar Conference, which starts April 11 in Denver. The event is a unique forum for utilities to share best practices and address the challenges of deploying and administering solar and other distributed technologies on the grid.

When was SEPA started? Was it always called SEPA?

The switch to Smart Electric Power Alliance is actually the second time in its 24-year history that SEPA has changed its name to reflect industry evolution. The organization was founded in 1992 as the Utility PhotoVoltaic Group — or UPVG — to research and help utilities demonstrate the technical and economic viability of integrating solar on the grid. Between 1992 and 2001, UPVG administered a federally funded program responsible for piloting utility solar projects across the country. With the ongoing growth of the utility solar sector, the group changed its name to the Solar Electric Power Association.

Why “smart” and why “alliance”?

The shift from the traditional energy system of centralized, remote power plants and one-way grid to the integrated, two-way energy system that is now emerging is driving a new approach to electricity, bringing together technology, data and new business and regulatory models. Relationships between energy companies and consumers are also changing. “Smart” encapsulates all the opportunities and challenges SEPA and its members see in being on the leading edge of these changes, and, like the energy system itself, its definition will be constantly evolving.

One of the common misperceptions about SEPA is that it is a traditional industry trade association. We are, in fact, an educational nonprofit and do not advocate for or endorse any specific business, technology or policy. The word “alliance” better reflects the broad range of industry stakeholders among our membership and the collaborative approach we bring to our research and advisory services.

What other changes will SEPA be making as part of the expansion of its mission?

As already noted, the official name change to Smart Electric Power Alliance will go into effect April 11. In the coming months, we will also roll out a new logo and a new website featuring richer content on the people and projects that are moving the energy transition forward. A more fundamental shift in our work is already under way as we expand the focus of our research agenda to include the potential impacts and benefits of combining solar and distributed energy resources.

Media contact: K Kaufmann, [email protected] or 202.379.1637