Manchester, NH – 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 New Hampshire Research & Policy Center.
“Pollution-free solar energy represents New Hampshire’s most abundant energy resource,” said Michelle McCarthy, Campaign Organizer with Environment New Hampshire. “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.
"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.
“In New Hampshire, we were fortunate to have a bipartisan group of legislators who realized the very real threat to the future of non-polluting solar energy by hitting the so called ‘cap’ allocated to our four electric utilities,” said. Representative Bob Backus of Manchester. “Legislation resulted which while, unfortunately not eliminating the cap entirely, increased it to permit the NH PUC to undertake a proceeding, now underway, to set new net metering rates.”
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 energy is important to my family by assuring that we leave a healthier planet for our grandchildren by drastically reducing the use of fossil fuels one house at a time,” said Lester Cuff, a solar homeowner in Stratham, NH. “Since installing solar panels in 2012, we have been a residential power plant. The panels have generated to date, 36.3 megawatt hours, which is equivalent to lighting the Eiffel Tower for 15 nights. Our carbon offset to date is equivalent to planting 656 trees. Our family and the State of New Hampshire will receive accumulative economic and environmental benefits for at least 25 years.”
“Solar is finally catching on and providing tremendous benefits, reducing pollution, saving consumers and businesses money, and revitalizing local economies,” said McCarthy. “Now, more than ever, states must lead the charge on a transition to solar power and renewable energy. ”