The heirs and still majority owners of the Walmart fortune, the Walton family, have been spending millions of dollars in recent years funding a huge number of anti-solar energy groups, according to a recent study from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).
If you’re asking yourself, well, what exactly is a “huge number?” — in this case, it’s more than two dozen such groups. These are groups that are actively “waging a war” around the country against the growth of rooftop solar — such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Americans for Prosperity.
The new report, How the Walton Family is Threatening Our Clean Energy Future, goes into detail on how exactly the Waltons are working to change the state of current legislature on the issue of rooftop solar. Amongst its findings is the note that the family has provided around $4.5 million in funding over just the last four years to organizations like those mentioned above. A pretty significant amount if you ask me.
“The Waltons claim to have a deep commitment to sustainability, but their support for anti-solar initiatives tells a different story. The Waltons are investing in efforts that both undercut clean energy and prevent average Americans from benefitting economically from solar power,” stated Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at ILSR and author of the new report.
The move against rooftop solar stands in contrast (somewhat anyway) to the fact that the family is actually one of the biggest stockholders of First Solar –a developer/builder of large utility-scale solar arrays.
Not exactly a real contrast — as First Solar (like many other utility-scale developers) would benefit a lot more from a weaker rooftop and stronger utility-scale solar market.
“Arizona is one of the country’s leaders in solar, with more solar per person than any other state. Just as solar is poised to take off, the Waltons’ funding is restricting our ability to put solar on our homes, businesses, schools and churches, and the Waltons’ own solar company is actually fighting against the growth of the rooftop solar industry,” stated Russell Lowes, founder and research director of SafeEnergyAnalyst.org, which provides technical assistance to Arizona homeowners and businesses moving to renewable energy sources. “It is time that the billionaire Waltons stop working against a sustainable, innovative solar future.”
“At a time when solar power is more accessible and affordable than ever before, the Walton family is spending millions of dollars to undermine our clean energy future,” stated Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth and an expert on tax and budget policies that spark a transition to clean energy. “Rooftop solar in the US is growing exponentially and more and more Americans have access to affordable solar power that cuts their energy bills and builds a more sustainable energy future. Yet, the Waltons’ money is instead limiting average Americans’ ability to go solar and control their own energy future.”
Ironically, Walmart is often recognized as having installed more solar power capacity in the US than any other corporation. (It has installed approximately twice as much as #2 Costco.) Given the massive size and number of Walmart stores across the country, however, its relative ranking wouldn’t be nearly as positive.
On that note, it’s probably worth making note of the fact that (as per an ILSR report from last year) since Walmart launched its “environmental campaign” in 2005, its self-reported greenhouse gas emissions have actually grown by 14%. And the company’s renewable power production has declined to 3% of its total energy use from a previous total that was higher.