Volts podcast: 20 years of solar advocacy, with Adam Browning of Vote Solar

Lessons learned and what's ahead for solar.


There aren't a lot of positive, hopeful stories competing for attention in the US these days, but one ray of light — if you'll pardon the pun — comes in the form of solar power. During the 21st century it has plunged in price, to the point that it is the cheapest available source of power in most big energy markets. Though it provides just 3 percent of US electricity today, analysts say it could provide close to half by mid-century. 

Adam Browning has lived through every stage of this extraordinary ongoing story. He co-founded Vote Solar, a nonprofit that advocates for solar energy at the state level, in 2002, to push for solar on public buildings in San Francisco. 

Since then, he has helped build a team of 40 people that operates across the country and has led numerous campaigns for state policy and regulatory changes. For as long as I’ve been doing energy journalism, I’ve known Adam and Vote Solar to be reliable sources — smart, practical, and results-oriented. I read all their emails, which regular listeners will know is high praise.

Now, after 20 years, Browning is stepping back, shifting to an advisory role and handing off day-to-day leadership of Vote Solar. Given his long experience, I thought it would be interesting to talk to him about what he has learned, how much things have changed for solar, and where solar and climate advocacy need to go next.