Missoula, MT – 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 Montana Research & Policy Center.
The report comes as Environment Montana 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 America’s most abundant energy resource” said Holly Seymour with Environment Montana. “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. A Koch brothers front organization, 60 Plus, also recently spent more than $1 million to support a deceptive, ostensibly pro-solar group in Florida that is working to create new barriers to solar energy ownership. Florida Power and Light (FPL), Gulf Power Electric, Tampa Electric Company and Duke Energy, the largest utility in the U.S., have spent millions of dollars also backing a front group, Consumers for Smart Solar, which is the primary backer of a deceptive ballot initiative that would further restrict rooftop solar growth in the state.
"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 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.
“Now, more than ever, is the time to ensure the growth of the solar industry is uninhibited and supported. We cannot afford legislation that makes this industry any more difficult than it already is,” said Chris Daum of Oasis Solar, Inc.
Environment Montana’s “Stand Up for Solar” campaign will keep fighting these efforts to roll back solar energy policy in Montana, by calling on the Arizona Corporation Commission to properly value solar energy and reject anti-solar proposals from utilities Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power.
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 Seymour. “Now, more than ever, states must lead the charge on a transition to solar power and renewable energy.”