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Clean Power

Published on October 15th, 2014 | by James Ayre

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Walmart Owners Investing Millions Into Anti-Solar Activities

October 15th, 2014 by  


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.”

Top-25-capacity-Logos

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.


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About the Author

James Ayre’s background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • 778878

    it is said that there are those who love death more than life …i do believe that they all the rich eilte love death more than life its not just the islamic radicals (the very bad ones) but the entire rich population what better way to control the population than to rob the poor every single day so that they cannot afford to feed their kids cause of their stupid electricity…in my grandparents day they feed on what they killed no need for gmo poisons, their only car used grass and hay for fuel, heating consisted of burning things in their woodstove… back in the day being poor didnt matter you could still survive….now the rich have made it illegal to be poor…you cant even be homeless in north carolina you have to work your butt off just to pay a mortgage or rent….or get married btw….the rothschilds own the papal treasure the papal treasure is what the USA is borrowing against so they can make useless programs and evil billion dollar ideas…and since well never be able to pay them back they own us making the US a business and not a govt…. and they can poison and break us as they see fit …propylene glycol is such a healthy poison now available in E-ciggs

    • Kris Mac

      Residential solar is a revolution. Think about personal computers and cell phones. This is equally revolutionary because it will change global economics. There will be solar in every home in America. Bet that!!!

      Historically how have past revolutions effected the most powerful forces on the planet. The Roman Catholic Church for example was the most powerful economic and political force on the planet before the renaissance. They charged people, poor people 1/2 years wages for “indulgences” (forgiveness of sins) they controlled social gatherings and claimed dominion over all the kings of Europe. They worked to design a system where they stayed on top. Far right thinkers sometimes forget thst America’s declaration of independance the foundation of our country and ultimately capitalism contains wisdom of many lessons learned the hard way.Imagine what it would be like today if the Roman Catholic Church still had all that power. As consumers and “the peopple” we are the movement. And the Waltons (one of the most powerful economic and political forces in America) are just fighting/clawing to sustain what they already know to be pre-revolutionary global ecomics.

      ‘Tkank you Martin Luther

  • NERDWORLD PROBLEMS

    I have run across several versions of this same story, all citing a ‘new report’ where this info is coming from, but I can’t seem to locate the report its self. I kinda like to do my own research on things, why does no one seem to want to link to this supposed report so that every body can read it for themselves? Usually when no one wants to show the info it’s because it isn’t real or they are twisting it for their own ends.

  • aztekman

    stupid article

    • Tom G.

      Well let me see if I can match this two word “stupid article” comment with another stupid two word comment.

      How about “stupid posting”

      Dear Mr./Ms. aztekman:

      To date there have been 21 people who have commented on this article. Most of those comments are from individuals who read the article and offered some additional value to the discussion. Why on earth would you just post “stupid article” instead of at least adding something to the conversation. If you sincerely feel the article is stupid, then please share with us WHY you feel it is stupid.

      Thank you

      • aztekman

        Stupid Article:
        – graphs not labeled well
        – Claims support of anti-solar yet obviously support solar
        – the claims of anti-solar are not substantiated.
        – the amount spent of anti-solar do not explain where they spend it. Could it be their 401k plans or are the Individual Walton’s “investing” millions.
        – Items are “quoted” yet no link to the article.
        – “Facts Presented” in a biased way.
        – Headline misleading

        Stupid Article.

        • Tom G.

          Much better – thank you.

          • aztekman

            Are you the “Nazi-Poster” ensuring people meet your standards of what is a good post?
            Seems like there are more productive uses of your time, though it is your choice to “waste” your time any way you want.

          • Tom G.

            Hi aztekman:

            A Nazi-Poster; darn I forget to mention that in my profile which contains the following information.

            “Retired Licensed and Registered Professional Engineer and Certified Quality Engineer by the American Society for Quality. More than 25 years of experience in nuclear power …”.

            Guess I missed the part where they asked if I was a Nazi?

            Have a great day

  • MarkFromSanFrancisco

    “… limiting average Americans’ ability to go solar…”

    How? This article utterly fails to spell out what exactly policy positions these groups have that are “anti-solar”.

    If it’s against government subsidies, or loan guarantees, then that’s just a libertarian free-market position, not specifically anti-solar, and does not in any way “restrict” peoples ability to manufacture or install solar. That would be like saying if you’re against farm subsidies, they you are “anti-food”.

  • bremmermandrake

    This is the same blackmail tactic used by Al Sharpton and J Jackson If you don’t pay us we will claim your a racist.
    progressive seen this tactic worked for the women’s and the black movements. so why wont it work for the Eco-freaks.

  • Jim Walton owns a significant share of First Solar. I doubt that whatever money they gave has anything to do with antisolar activity.

  • geofly

    As usual, big business wants to corner the market. That is why they are against rooftop. Hopefully Target will get a clue and sell the f*ck out of Home Solar kits!

  • 1. Walmart’s retail market edge is price. Their target market is people on the low end of the socioeconomic ladder. To keep people poor, they work to end any democratization of energy, which financially enriches people.
    2. They are in favor of centralized solar for their stores because it makes them money.
    These two points do not contradict each other.

  • shecky vegas

    What would you expect from a company that tells its employees to supplement their incomes by going on food stamps?

  • David in Bushwick

    Hypocrisy is all Republicans know.

    • TrollReviler

      That’s right David, because Democrats have all been beacons of truth and sincerity. I mean, there’s never been a Dem professing lowering energy use while his mansion literally and ‘inconveniently’ bleeds energy daily. Democrats never drive SUVs or anything that uses more gas to move than they need. Standing Democrat presidents never say they are for transparency yet grow the police state with nearly free reigns for the NSA, etc.

      Wait, or 1 for 1, Spending other peoples money is all Democrats know. There, I can troll too!

      Now begone, until you have something useful to add.

  • Bryan McAvoy

    Are they funding ALEC, for example, explicitly to stop rooftop solar? Seems that these groups, which basically design legislation for the far right to then turn into law, are being funded more with an eye toward keeping real wages low, squashing unionization, among of raft of other things that directly support the Waltons’ fortune. I think this is a case of correlation and not causation.

  • wattleberry

    Strange how we didn’t use Asda much in the UK. Does Walmart own any stores in Spain?

  • Tom G.

    As I read through this story I kept waiting for the reason why sentence?

    There must be a powerful profit motive somewhere in the money trail. Maybe they own millions of shares of oil and gas or maybe some coal conglomerate. Greed is a powerful motivator for many individuals. What is motivating them to fund these anti-solar groups?

    • Jim Smith

      agree. this is very poor blogging. Why is Walmart opposing rooftop solar?

      • RussellLowes

        Nailing intention is tricky business; finding out what someone is thinking is difficult. Having said that, a reporter can try to get to “why.” This is one possibility. Walmart has a huge investment in First Solar, which is a centralized and big box solar installer. The more they get rooftop out of the picture, the more First Solar will make, by shifting solar investment from rooftop to centralized and big box.

        So, First Solar, at their last annual meeting, where I presented via proxy, stated they were opposed to rooftop, saying it was unfair to the non-solar ratepayer. This reasoning is completely bogus. They are okay with a utility installing solar but not a small business or homeowner, but are okay with Walmart installing. It is hypocritical.

        When a utility installs, they do so at a higher rate of interest (about 9% on average) that cancels out their bulk buying price on solar. When a homeowner buys solar via a home equity line of credit, they pay maybe 20-35% more per kilowatt installed, but because they only pay maybe 5.5% interest the cost per kWhe is lower. This means that non-solar users are more negatively impacted by a utility investing in solar than a rooftop solar investor.

        This is not conventional thinking that I am putting forth, so just run the numbers and you will find this to be accurate. Even many in the solar industry think that solar rooftop owners are paying more per kWhe than utilities due the their bulk buying advantage. They make this mistake because they don’t know that utilities are paying so much interest out to banks and equity holders.

        • Tom G.

          Thank you Russell. Very good analysis.

    • sault

      They probably aren’t targeting their donations specifically to anti-solar activities. It looks like the Waltons are just mainly supporting Republican-allied groups whose activities are only partially focused on slowing down solar development.

      • Tom G.

        Your statement also has merit Sault. Here in Arizona we have a large number of Republicans who support the solar industry and some even sit on our Corporation Commission [PUC]. They realize that solar is a big business in Arizona and if there is one thing Republicans like its big business, LOL. They also realize that over 70% of the general populace supports renewable energy sources and they do like to get re-elected.

        Have a great day. .

  • Kyle Field

    That is odd…but they are spending far more than that 4.5 million on installing solar on their stores. Seems like they are personally not fans but because it makes good business sense, they are installing it on their store rooftops. Weird.

  • Rob G

    Top down thinking just won’t go away quick enough. They are basically saying we don’t want you, the public, to have any power (pun intended). Capitalism gone wrong and not very well disguised.

  • juxx0r

    If they sold solar in a box, they’d make a fortune.

    • Kyle Field

      Maybe they’re just mad because Ikea is doing just that.

    • I’ve been thinking about robots to install solar on roofs

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