By Elizabeth Ouzts and Rachel Richardson, environmentamerica.org
With solar power on the rise around the country, a national network of 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 supporting media campaigns to provide cover for anti-solar campaigns across the country, said a new report released today by Environment America Research & Policy Center.
The report comes as Environment America launches a “Stand Up for Solar” campaign to re-double its efforts to defend solar policies from utilities and fossil fuel groups pushing anti-solar agendas in state legislatures and regulatory agencies around the country.
“Pollution-free solar energy represents America’s most abundant energy resource,” said Bret Fanshaw, Solar Program Coordinator with Environment America. “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 20 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 non-profits; the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has provided utility and fossil fuel interests with access to state legislatures and inspired anti-solar 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.
“Solar has the chance to become a leading technology,” said Rachel Cross of Frontier Group, report co-author. “It’s ready, it’s more accessible every year, and it’s a solution for a world that needs to quit burning carbon. Allowing electric companies and fossil fuel interests to stand in the way of that kind of progress defies common sense.”
In mid-2016, there were at least 84 ongoing policy actions in US 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.
“Many of the nation’s electric utilities, led by their trade group the Edison Electric Institute, are trying to kill rooftop solar power in the cradle,” said David Pomerantz, Executive Director of the Energy and Policy Institute, a watchdog group that works to expose polluters’ attacks on renewable energy policy. “Americans who believe in the power of rooftop solar technology to help the environment and create jobs must watch these companies like hawks, and urge public officials to support policies that guarantee solar rights and access.”
Environment America’s “Stand Up for Solar” campaign will keep fighting efforts to roll back solar energy policy in states around the country, from Florida to Arizona and more.
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 Fanshaw. “Now, more than ever, states must lead the charge on a transition to solar power and renewable energy.”
Environment America is a federation of state-based, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organizations. Our professional staff in 27 states and Washington, DC, combines independent research, practical ideas and tough-minded advocacy to overcome the opposition of powerful special interests and win real results for the environment. Environment America draws on 30 years of success in tackling environmental problems. More information at www.environmentamerica.org.