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Utility Trade Association Needs To Come Clean On Lobbying Efforts

distributed generation utilitiesYour local power company pays big bucks to buy political influence at the state and federal level. Its interests do not always align with yours, but in almost every state, utilities are a major political force to be reckoned with. Beyond their own lobbying efforts, they often pay even more to have someone else do the lobbying for them.

Enter the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an industry think tank that has lobbied for America’s investor-owned utilities at the state and federal level since 1933. In 2012, EEI spent nearly $14 million lobbying the federal government and contributed $785,885 to federal candidates. That money, incidentally, is coming from the power bills we all have to pay each month. While most of their membership and dues information isn’t public, a few examples include:

EEI is the mastermind behind attacks on rooftop solar and energy choice across the country. Monopoly utilities have followed its lead, launching state level attacks against their own customers’ right to install solar. But what happens when EEI’s hatred of competition from solar is actually in conflict with their members and funders?

Case in point: Environmental and solar advocates are actively working to extend the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), which provides tax breaks to households and businesses that invest in rooftop solar and other renewable resources. It’s a policy that has spurred unprecedented growth in the rooftop solar market, adding tens of thousands of jobs since it started in 2006. It’s also a policy that utilities themselves take advantage of when building new solar projects.

Speculation is growing that EEI may be leading the fight against extending the solar ITC, using its members’ (read: our) money to lobby Congress. But this stance is likely opposed by some of its utility members’ support of the tax credit for their own projects.

That may be why EEI is staying silent when asked about its position on the ITC. In fact, all but 1 EEI member utility declined to comment when asked about lobbying against the ITC by an energy reporter. He writes: “Only one, Duke Energy, responded to a request for comment. Tom Williams, Duke Energy’s director of external relations, said he’s heard nothing about organizing for or against the ITC within the Charlotte, N.C. based energy giant.” EEI did not respond when asked to comment and continues to remain silent on the issue.

EEI needs to come clean about how it’s using its lobbying budget and whether it is truly in the interests of its members.

Image via Utility Dive

 
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is an independent media strategist based in San José, CA. You can read his many musings on Twitter @pjallen2.

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