SEBA Undergraduate Plays Role in Shaping Solar Power Policies

Since landing an internship at the solar energy company Sunrun last summer, Saint Mary’s junior Kimberlea Buczeke has found herself in a position to affect the future of solar energy.

Buczeke is a public policy intern for Sunrun and TASC—the Alliance for Solar Choice. Slightly different from traditional solar power companies that sell equipment, Sunrun leases to individuals, increasing affordability. The Alliance for Solar Choice, which Sunrun is a member of, promotes the proliferation of solar energy and protects consumer rights.

sunrunSince joining Sunrun last summer, Buczeke has supported the organization in a myriad of ways, including compiling research used to lobby politicians in Sacramento, preparing information on utility companies, drafting reports, creating web content, and managing social media. Over the life of her internship, she has found her efforts often meet substantial resistance from major traditional utility companies like PG&E and Pinnacle West.

“We’re trying to protect people’s right to choose solar, if not now, at least at some point down the line,” says Buczeke. “What utility companies would like to see is an increased monthly rate on their solar customers. We don’t want to get rid of utilities altogether, but we would like scale back their business so it doesn’t limit the future of rooftop solar.”

Buczeke has been deeply involved in the continued push-and-pull between solar companies and utilities, and had an opportunity to participate in a policy battle in Arizona in November that drew coverage from the Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

While in Arizona, Buzceke helped organize a rally of over 1,000 solar workers, users and supporters against a proposed increase of $50-$100 in monthly rates of solar users from Arizona Public Services. After deliberation and pressure applied by TASC, the Arizona Corporation Commission ended up accepting a $4-$5 increase.

Kimberlea BuczekeBuczeke views the Arizona decision as a win for solar and the experience as an overall success.

 “What I learned at Saint Mary’s has helped me a lot during this internship. My international business and accounting classes have been particularly useful,” she said.

“There’s been so much that I’ve learned,” said Buczeke of her time at Sunrun. “I think the most important thing is that, no matter who you’re fighting against and how deep their pockets are, people can still make a difference.”

Buczeke will be studying abroad in London for a semester, but when she returns home in June she will be back at Sunrun.

“It’s been a phenomenal experience,” she said. “I’m so grateful. It’s been such a blessing.”