Let’s Chat: Ezra Auerbach, Solar Pioneer and Former Executive Director of NABCEP

This post was originally published in 2013. The tips and techniques explained may be outdated.

SMA recently sat down with solar trailblazer Ezra Auerbach, former executive director and one of the founders of NABCEP

Auerbach recently retired from his busy NABCEP life, and SMA had the opportunity to speak with him about his role at NABCEP and why certification and quality assurance are so important to the solar industry.

What first brought you to NABCEP?

I am one of the founders of NABCEP. When we founded NABCEP in 1998, the solar industry was going through rapid growth. As the industry was growing, the number of poor quality installations was growing even faster. I was old enough to remember what happened to solar hot water in the 1970s. Many systems were installed so poorly that the technology got a bad reputation. I didn’t want to see that happen to solar electricity.

We saw we were headed for trouble, and we thought that one of the most direct ways to address that would be to develop certification programs to help the public  identify professionals that were trained, tested and demonstrated some previous experience. There was a need for professionals who had passed a test and would adhere to a code of ethics. So a group of 12-15 charter board members, some of whom are still on the board, set out to found NABCEP. 

Have you been in the solar industry for most of your career?

I started working in the renewable energy industry in 1986. I’ve lived off-grid since 1968, and that has really driven my career in renewable energy.

Read about the recent commissioning of Ezra’s off-grid home using SMA Sunny Boy inverters, Sunny Island, Smartformer and WebBox here. 

Why is NABCEP’s mission so important? Why is certification so important?

The mission of NABCEP is important because the core element is to promote consumer confidence. Despite growth in the solar industry, it’s still not exactly a commonplace purchase or investment choice. Consumer confidence is, in my mind, absolutely key to making renewable energy grow.

When you look for ways to promote consumer confidence, it’s through what consumers are used to. And they’re used to qualified workers and looking for certification or other types of credentials. It’s important to develop a culture in the industry of best practices, high safety, training and verification that you got the training through testing. That’s a good culture to have.

How do educational and training opportunities benefit solar professionals?

Training is vital to professional development and growth. This year NABCEP is celebrating its 10th anniversary of issuing certifications. If people who were originally certified in 2003 hadn’t received any professional training along the way, they’d have missed a few things. Training is what allows a professional to maintain their standards. It keeps them vital; it enables them to make choices based on best practices in the market that are available in real time.

As you move on from this phase, what advice do you have for solar professionals who are looking to build their careers?

My advice is this: Develop your knowledge and skill set broadly so that you can be flexible about the kind of work that you do from one year to the next. If you want to stay in this industry, you need to be able to dance with markets that change from year to year.

How do you think the renewable energy landscape will change over the next few years?

I think it will continue to become more sophisticated. I think the number of players will evolve – we may see a reduction in the number of players in the marketplace. I think it will become more integrated into energy management, the smart grid and energy storage. That’s a pretty bright horizon for the industry.

What’s next for you? 

I really like the renewable energy industry and I’ve been really fortunate in the years that I’ve spent in it to have had opportunities to make a difference. I’d like to continue to do this, so it’s my intention to continue doing consulting work as I’ve done for many years before NABCEP. So I will continue to work but on a considerably reduced scale – I will be spending a lot more time in my garden and the forest.

We wish Ezra the very best of luck in his future endeavors and thank him for his years of dedicated service to the renewable energy industry! The solar energy landscape is what it is today because of pioneers like Ezra.

Click here to read about the upcoming NABCEP Continuing Education Conference in March 

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