DENVER, CO. - A national network of utility interest groups and fossil-fuel industry-funded think tanks is providing funding, model legislation, and political cover for anti-solar campaigns across the country, and would-be solar power owners will pay the price, said a new report by Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center.
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 Koch-funded campaign organization Americans for Prosperity, which has a chapter in Parker Colorado, carries out anti-solar energy organizing efforts, says Blocking the Sun: 12 Utilities and Fossil Fuel Interests That Are Undermining American Solar Power.
Solar power capacity in Colorado increased at a rate of 44 percent per year from 2010 to 2013. If solar installations continue to increase at just 30 percent annually between 2013 and 2025, Colorado would have enough solar energy to generate 20 percent of its electricity. However, solar power decreased drastically between 2013 and 2014, knocking Colorado from 7th place to 10th place in the United States for total annual solar power capacity per capita.
“Colorado businesses have to look to states on both coasts to find a more attractive market for their products and services despite the fact that we have one of the best solar assets in the country,” says Alex Blackmer, president of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society, “It is no longer a question of creating new technologies or public demand for renewable energy, it is a question of creating fair and equitable tax and market structures.”
The Koch brothers have an enormous financial stake in the fossil fuel industry through their company Koch Industries and its many subsidiaries. Koch Industries operates around 4,000 miles of pipeline, along with oil refineries in Alaska, Minnesota, and Texas. Its subsidiaries include Koch Carbon, which specializes “in the global sourcing, supply, handling and transportation of bulk commodities” – including coal.
“We found that most attacks on solar energy happen behind closed doors in utility agencies, or in dense regulatory filings -- away from public view," said Gideon Weissman of the Frontier Group, co-author of the report. “That’s probably because they’re aimed at very popular policies that give regular consumers the chance to go solar.”
Americans for Prosperity, founded and funded by the Koch brothers, is a first-hand participant in state anti-solar campaigns. Through Americans for Prosperity, and by funding anti-solar efforts by other groups including ALEC, the Koch brothers have funded or participated in fights against solar across the country.
Representative Mike Foote says, "Colorado should be leading the country in solar development and the jobs that come with it. It is important to know how some of the entrenched interests are holding us back."
“By wide margins, Coloradans support pro-solar policies,” said Katie Otterbeck, solar power campaign organizer for Environment Colorado, “That’s why the Koch Brothers and their front groups like Americans for Prosperity have resorted to shady tactics to undermine them. Now it’s up to our leaders/target to reject these attacks and support a clean energy future.”
Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.Environmentcoloradocenter.org