Richmond, VA – 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 Virginia Research & Policy Center.
The report comes as Environment Virginia launches its “Stand Up for Solar” campaign to defend solar policies from utilities and fossil fuel groups pushing anti-solar agendas.
“Pollution-free solar energy represents Virginia’s most abundant energy resource” said Elly Boehmer, campaign organizer with Environment Virginia. “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.
Utility and fossil fuel interests influence energy policy in Virginia. At least twenty-six of Virginia’s General Assembly members have known ties to ALEC, and Virginia’s largest utility, Virginia Dominion Power, is an ALEC member.
The report also documents efforts to roll back clean energy progress by the Koch backed group Americans for Prosperity (AFP). During the 2015 General Assembly session, the Republican leadership in the House of Delegates pushed legislation nearly identical to the Reliable and Safe Power (RASP) Act, a piece of model legislation written by Americans for Prosperity to block the US EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the US’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
“Clean energy is in demand in Virginia,” said Boehmer. “But, while fossil fuel industry backed groups like ALEC, AFP, and Dominion stand in the way of strong pro-solar policies, we will continue to lag behind our neighbors.”
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. Environment Virginia’s “Stand Up for Solar” campaign will keep fighting these efforts to roll back solar energy policy in Virginia.
“More and more Virginians are adopting solar to ensure energy freedom, create jobs, and strengthen the resilience of the electric grid,” said Aaron Sutch of VA Sun, a solar advocacy organization that works to strengthen solar policies in Virginia. “Efforts to block this choice (as outlined in the report) are not only disturbing, but will prove unsuccessful in light of the tremendous support that solar has across a broad constituency.”
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 Boehmer. “Now, more than ever, states must lead the charge on a transition to solar power and renewable energy.”