Clean Power

Published on January 7th, 2014 | by The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC)


New Report Affirms Dark Money Lines Utility Pockets

January 7th, 2014 by  

arizona solar rooftopsThe rooftop solar industry closed out 2013 with a 4-0 winning streak against the monopoly utilities’ attempts to eliminate net metering. Net metering gives rooftop solar customers full retail credit for the excess electricity they deliver to the electric grid. The utility turns around and sells this electricity to homes and businesses nearby, and saves money on big costs like transmission and distribution.

Idaho, Louisiana, California, and Arizona all upheld net metering this year, siding with public opinion, consumer choice, and competition. The battle in Arizona was particularly heated, as Arizona Public Service (APS) took the fight to new levels with dark money tactics and a multimillion-dollar campaign against rooftop solar. After reports from October exposed the utility for lying about funding anti-solar ad campaigns and phony grassroots organizations, a web of dark money surfaced.

In response, Arizonans came out in droves to support the energy choice and competition that rooftop solar provides. More than 30,000 Arizonans wrote to the state’s Corporation Commission to defend net metering, particularly notable considering there are only 18,000 rooftop solar customers in the state. On the day of the final hearing in November, more than 1,000 Arizonans descended on the Arizona Corporation Commission headquarters. Ultimately, Arizona Public Service failed to get the large solar tax they had requested, and net metering was upheld.

The Arizona activities make us question which other utilities are using dark money tactics in their state-by-state campaigns against rooftop solar. Yet other utilities and their trade association, Edison Electric Institute (EEI), remain silent on this issue, even after a request that they disavow such tactics.

A recent Washington Post article validates the pervasiveness of dark money in climate change denial and the fights against solar. The piece, titled, “The Dark Money in Climate Change,” reports:

The thrust of the study, done by Dr. Robert J. Brulle, is that climate-denial money has largely been driven underground to dark-money sources. About 75 percent of the money backing climate-denial efforts is untraceable, primarily via conservative foundations and shadowy tax-exempt groups that obscure their funding sources.

The story goes on to explain that untraceable funding to attack climate change has increased at the same time that publicly traceable funding from major industrial donors has decreased. Notable industrial donors whose public funding has dwindled of late include ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. As the Washington Post states, “You don’t have to be a genius to figure out what’s happening there.”

As we enter 2014, net metering battles are already underway in notable solar markets such as Colorado. Fortunately, while the solar industry doesn’t have the deep pockets of fossil fuel supporters, we do have the public on our side. According to a new poll, nearly four in five Colorado voters (78%) support solar net metering. What’s more, these results match other state-by-state findings across the country – including California, Arizona and Hawaii – that show overwhelming public support for rooftop solar.

The Washington Post affirms that there’s no shortage of dark money supporting monopoly utilities. It remains to be seen where and how it will surface in 2014.

Image Credit: crume / Foter / CC BY

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About the Author

advocates for maintaining successful distributed solar energy policies, such as retail net metering, throughout the United States. Retail net metering (NEM) provides fair credit to residents, businesses, churches, schools, and other public agencies when their solar systems export excess energy to the grid. The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) was formed on the belief that anyone should have the option to switch from utility power to distributed solar power, and realize the financial benefits therein. The rooftop solar market has been largely driven by Americans’ desire to assert control over their electric bills, a trend that should be encouraged.

  • Will E

    I use my EV car as storage battery,
    and the house is all electrified
    no more gas , no more power bills.
    Utilities cannot compete anymore.
    paid for and it works. no worries.

  • Will E

    talking about prices
    I get offers from China, Best Sun solar and Cinco Solar, 50 dollar cents a Kw.
    installation of solar panels is so easy, you can do it yourself.
    What prices are you talking about??

  • sault

    Look, everybody needs to ignore Marion Meads. “Her” posts are universally negative, disruptive and play right into the hands of dirty energy. You can see for yourself here:
    Maybe “she” is getting a little slice of the $1B in Dark Money that fossil fuel companies shell out every year in order to confuse the public about climate and energy issues.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Enough of this bull.

      Challenge Marion on her cost claims if you wish. Cut the troll stuff.
      Marion happens to be one of the most useful commenters on the site. She brings a lot of information to the discussion.

  • Marion Meads

    This means that Solar City must be raking in some serious dough on top of their tax incentives that is computed based on inflated price of installation compared to the market for the same quality type of solar panels installed. Solar City should be audited thoroughly as to why their installed prices are at least twice as high as other companies. I have data to show if needed. You know, when your installed price is twice than the market, and so is your tax incentives, and thus the need for serious audit as to why their prices are at least double.

    • SecularAnimist

      I recently got price quotes for PV panels for residential rooftop installation from several installers, both local and national, including Solar City. Solar City’s price was not the lowest, but it was certainly NOT “twice as high as other companies”. It was no where near twice as high.

      Most people like me who want to put solar panels on their roof will get multiple price quotes. If Solar City actually charged “at least double” what other installers charge for the same thing, they would never get any business.

      • Marion Meads

        Tell me your verifiable quote from Solar City and I can compare it with what I can get right now.

        • nullbull

          This “real cost” debate for solar always comes absent the “compared to what” part. Compared to Natural Gas whose current fracking technology was supported for 20+ years by DOE before it showed promise? The fossil fuel industry that is larded with subsidies everywhere from massive government purchase of their product for the “strategic reserve” (frequently used to “adjust the market”) to the removal of other interested parties from the market for mineral rights in a huge number of jurisdictions? They get direct subsidies, tax breaks, institutionalized subsidies, local subsidies, state, national…

          I’d love to have the “real cost” talk. I just don’t think it’s authentic to say “Solar Company X is manipulating price / tax law,” without saying, “but then again, I can’t name an energy company who doesn’t.”

          Sorry, but we can either leave that onion peeled, or unpeel the WHOLE THING. Going halfway is just cherry picking for the sake of being contrary.

    • sault

      Look, if you’re trying to short SolarCity stock or are on the payroll of one of the monopoly utilities, please tell us this up-front.
      Your comment is not related to the article. In addition, you make unfounded assertions, presenting ZERO evidence while asking others to meet a standard much higher than the one you set for yourself.

      Either show us the proof you demand of others or take your unfounded accusations elsewhere.

    • nullbull

      The sad part is, the anti-solar, pro-fossil fuels people are so pernicious and so astroturfy, I can’t help but read this comment as paid trolling. I’d love to give comments like this the benefit of the doubt, but simply can’t. Its safer to assume she’s a paid troll.

      Her comment history shows she is simply anti-solar – “it costs more than they’re saying,” “it’s too heavily subsidized…” Same talking points every time, always one of the first 5-10 commenters on a solar article.

      Astroturf, paid troll.

      • Bob_Wallace

        “Her comment history shows she is simply anti-solar ”

        You’re new here. You don’t (yet) know jack.

        In no way is Marion anti-solar. Often very opinionated (but she’s got company there), but very much pro-renewables.

        Drop the troll accusations. You know not of what you speak.

        • A Real Libertarian

          Remember back when she was going on about electric cars?

          • Bob_Wallace

            Not really. I remember some frustration over Tesla not releasing a more affordable EV on the soon-soon.

            But I’m known for having a faulty memory. I seem to remember people telling me that….

          • A Real Libertarian
          • Bob_Wallace

            The advantage of a short memory.

            All that stuff is history. Forgotten history….

          • A Real Libertarian

            If you recall, Santayana had something to say about forgetting history.

            If you don’t recall, Google exists for a reason.

          • Bob_Wallace

            My approach is to deal with people as they currently are. Not as how they once may have been.

            Marion has posted some high quality stuff lately. And she seems to have dealt with her Tesla issues.

            The people who really get to me are the ones who keep on posting the same old disproven crap time after time after time.

          • A Real Libertarian


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