Report Names Funders Of Anti-Solar-Power Initiatives & Legislation


Electricity grid substation (Image: FirstEnergy Corp on Flickr, used under CC license)

Electricity grid substation (Image: FirstEnergy Corp on Flickr, used under CC license)

As home-solar installations proliferate, electric utilities are worried about what effect that could have on their business.

There's been much talk among analysts about whether distributed generation of electricity from renewable sources could threaten the traditional grid-based model.

Now, a new report from advocacy group Environment America claims that specific utilities and related groups are actively trying to quash solar power.

DON'T MISS: As Solar Power Spreads, Diverse Users Fight Utility Attempts To Penalize It

Titled "Blocking the Sun," the report (pdf) names 12 electric utilities and advocacy groups backed by the fossil-fuel industry that its authors claim are running "some of the most aggressive campaigns to slow the growth of solar energy in the United States."

One half of the campaign against solar energy is a network of largely interconnected groups representing the interests of the fossil-fuel industry, the report suggests.

That includes the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), a trade group that represents most investor-owned U.S. utilities.

Photovoltaic solar panels on roof of Honda Smart Home at UC-Davis, California

Photovoltaic solar panels on roof of Honda Smart Home at UC-Davis, California

In 2012, the EEI held a conference warning its members that solar power represented a threat to their business models.

The Environment America report claims that EEI turned to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group that drafts legislation that furthers the interests of for-profit businesses.

It claims ALEC was called on to draft model anti-solar legislation that could then be distributed for sympathetic politicians to introduce in multiple states.

ALSO SEE: As Solar Installations Soar, Utilities Confront Distributed Renewable Power

One such piece of legislation--the "Electricity Freedom Act"--was reportedly drafted by another group, the Heartland Institute, a think tank that is one of the most vocal deniers of climate science in the U.S. public sphere.

In addition, anti-solar campaigns by ALEC and other groups have received funding from the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity organization, the report claims.

It also marks the Houston-based Consumer Energy Alliance as another player, calling it a  "front group" for companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Shell.

Electric power plant outside Ithaca, New York

Electric power plant outside Ithaca, New York

Then there are the utilities themselves.

Two Arizona utilities--Arizona Public Service and the Salt River Project--are named as particularly aggressive in working against solar power in their regions.

The pair are accused specifically of engaging in campaigns against net metering, the practice in which customers are paid by utilities for the energy their home-solar arrays discharge into the grid.

RELATED: Innovative Arizona Utility Program Rents Your Roof For Solar Power

Earlier this year, the Salt River Project levied a net-metering fee that averages about $50 a month per customer.

The report also accuses utilities in Nevada, Utah, and Wisconsin of lobbying against net metering, while American Electric Power successfully lobbied for a net-metering cap in West Virginia.

Duke Energy--which has some notable solar investments itself--has also contributed to the campaigns of anti-solar politicians in Florida, and lobbied against third-party solar agreements in North Carolina.

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Photovoltaic solar power field at Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Finally, FirstEnergy is depicted as one of the driving forces behind Ohio's freeze of its renewable energy standard in the report.

As of mid-2015, 21 states had either "ongoing or recently-resolved proceedings around policies to slow the growth of solar energy," Environment America says.

Most of these policies center around net metering, it says, or involve levying new charges that make rooftop solar panels less financially attractive.

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