Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Koch Bros. and ALEC Shout From the Rooftops: "Stop Rooftop Solar!"

Posted By on Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 10:36 AM

click to enlarge COURTESY OF BIGSTOCK
  • Courtesy of Bigstock
See if this paragraph from a recent article sounds familiar.
[Arizona] Utilities argue that rules allowing private solar customers to sell excess power back to the grid at the retail price — a practice known as net metering — can be unfair to homeowners who do not want or cannot afford their own solar installations.
It sounds like a statement straight from the Arizona Corporation Commission's argument to lower the amount of money rooftop solar owners get when they sell power to utilities, but it isn't. I added [Arizona] to a paragraph from an article in the Sunday New York Times: Rooftop Solar Dims Under Pressure From Utility Lobbyists. The article mentions Arizona, but it's about the nationwide push to make rooftop solar less attractive so utilities can continue to make money without competition from individual home owners. (Deep down, you knew our Corporation Commissioners aren't bright enough to come up with this on their own, right?)

How's the lobbying going? Apparently, quite well.
Their effort has met with considerable success, dimming the prospects for renewable energy across the United States.

Prodded in part by the utilities’ campaign, nearly every state in the country is engaged in a review of its solar energy policies. Since 2013, Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, Maine and Indiana have decided to phase out net metering, crippling programs that spurred explosive growth in the rooftop solar market. (Nevada recently reversed its decision.)

Spearheading the effort is the top energy lobbyist, Edison Electric Institute. Courtesy of the Trump administration, EEI now has close friends in high places. Trump's energy secretary, dim-bulb Rick Perry, is giving lots of power to his brighter and more knowledgeable chief of staff, Brian McCormack, who used to be the top executive at EEI. McCormack is the head of an energy department study looking into—I'm not making this up—ways renewable energy could be hurting the coal, oil and gas industries. One of the hallmarks of capitalist theory is that competition leads to progress and benefits to consumers, but Perry and the current administration seem to be fond of protective socialism for utility companies.

Perry and the Edison Electric Institute are drawing even more anti-rooftop energy from other powerful sources. ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) has written model legislation to end net metering, which can be copied and pasted into state bills by simply filling in a few state-specific blanks. Among the major funders of ALEC are the Koch brothers, Charles and David. And back at the Department of Energy, Brian McCormack has named Travis Fisher, who used to work for the Koch-funded nonprofit, Institute for Energy Research, to head a study on the problems which come from adding renewables to the energy mix. But, according to the department, environmentalists needn't worry about pro-utility industry bias.
“The department has no preconceived notions as to the findings and recommendations that will result from this review,” [Shaylyn Hynes, a spokeswoman for the Energy Department] said.
People who believe in the Paris Climate Agreement and the dangers of climate change can rest easy, according to Trump & Co. They just want to look at the facts and make an objective judgement. And if you believe that, in a few decades, I just might be able to sell you some oceanfront property in Arizona, for real.

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