Denver, CO – With solar power on the rise around the country, a national network fossil fuel and utility-backed organizations have joined forces to put the brakes on this fast-growing pollution-free energy resource. Trade groups and think tanks backed by deep pocketed anti-clean energy ideologues and fossil interests are bankrolling campaigns, promoting model legislation and media campaigns to provide cover for anti-solar campaigns across the country, said a new report released today by Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center.
The report comes as Environment Colorado launches its “Stand Up for Solar” campaign to defend solar policies from utilities and fossil fuel groups pushing anti-solar agendas.
In Colorado, for example, the Intermountain Rural Electric Cooperative attempted to cut residential credit for solar electricity and add a new charge based on peak demand. This program is similar to programs described in report, including the Salt River Project in Arizona, and Commonwealth Edison in Illinois. Due to customer protest, IREA’s project is under revision.
“Pollution-free solar energy represents Colorado and America’s most abundant energy resource” said Emma Spett, an organizer with Environment Colorado. “For our climate and our environment, we can’t allow special interest forces in the fossil fuel industry to pull the plug on the bright potential of solar power.”
The report, Blocking the Sun, documents 17 fossil fuel backed groups and electric utilities running some of the most aggressive campaigns to slow the growth of solar energy in 12 states.
Of the findings, the report documents how the Koch brothers have provided funding to the national fight against solar by funneling tens of millions of dollars through a network of opaque nonprofits; the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provides utility and fossil fuel interests with access to state legislatures, and its anti-net metering policy resolution has inspired legislation in a set of states; utilities in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, West Virginia, California and Illinois have undertaken extensive campaigns to revoke renewable energy policy or impose new charges on their solar customers.
In mid-2016, there were at least 84 ongoing policy actions in U.S. states that could impact the growth of solar energy, including through limitations to net metering or new charges to make rooftop solar power less economically viable.
"Singling solar out for special fees can encourage homeowners to exercise their legal right to leave the grid, which could place more burden on remaining ratepayers as happened with telecommunications,” Says Professor K.K. DuVivier of the University of Denver’s Sturm School of Law. “Instead, utilities should develop mechanisms for charging customers uniform fees for the services provided and methods of calculating the full value of solar as a carbon-free generation source."
Environment Colorado’s “Stand Up for Solar” campaign will keep fighting these efforts to roll back solar energy policy in Colorado by calling on utility companies to properly value solar energy and reject anti-solar proposals from utilities.
“With utilities supported generously with the public's rate dollars, the young solar industry faces a very uneven playing field in making its case for more solar-friendly policies,” said Rebecca Cantwell, Executive Director of the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association. “The agencies that make much utility policy are arcane and lawyer-dominated commissions and it is hard for the public to get engaged. That's why we need more people to join us as Solar Citisuns and work for solar choice.”
The report urges state decision makers to recognize and resist utility and fossil fuel industry influence that seeks to undermine solar energy and to instead encourage the growth of solar.
“Solar is finally catching on and providing tremendous benefits, reducing pollution, saving consumers and businesses money, and revitalizing local economies,” said Emma Spett. “Now, more than ever, states must lead the charge on a transition to solar power and renewable energy.”
Environment Colorado is a state-wide, citizen based environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water and open space.