2016 Digital PR Awards: Crisis Management

Winner: Lincoln Strategy Group - Save Our AZ Solar

The Save Our AZ Solar campaign was launched to promote social welfare to preserve and protect the ability of Arizonans to produce their own electricity through rooftop solar energy.

Lincoln Strategy Group’s (LSG) solar client has faced increasing pressure from monopoly utilities in the Southwest as the popularity of rooftop solar has increased over the years. As monopoly utilities favor utility-scale solar projects instead of residential solar applications, utilities have been applying rate-making pressure though legislative, regulatory and public tactics to eliminate viable rooftop solar policies.

The immediate challenge for LSG’s client was to help explain complex rule making and regulatory policy changes to a variety of voters who may not fully understand the complexity of net metering and rule-making at the public utility commission level. LSG needed to quickly train and mobilize over 600 canvassers to help explain the issue surrounding net metering and the benefits of the solar industry to a large population, including those who may not have been interested in or own solar panels themselves.

While 65,000 Arizona households have rooftop solar, it was immediately clear that LSG needed to help educate the public and elected officials around the damaging policies the monopoly utility was attempting to place on all Arizona utility ratepayers, while also attempting to qualify its ballot initiative and fight off an effort the utility posed to place its own competing ballot initiative on the same November ballot.

This required even more grassroots lobbying and direct voter contact with anyone who was interested in managing their own energy, from existing solar customers to those who were in line to have panels placed on their homes. While LSG successfully collected over 60,000 signatures in 12 days, a condition of the negotiation brokered by the governor's office was that both sides had to suspend their ballot activities.

This meant LSG had to cease collecting signatures and that the two sponsoring elected officials had to drop their utility-backed competing ballot initiative. Hundreds of thousands of registered voters became aware of this very important issue—one that is crucial to the health of the Arizona economy—thanks to these efforts.