Portland, Maine– 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, a new report released today by Environment Maine Research & Policy Center.
The report comes as Environment Maine launches its “Stand Up for Solar” campaign to defend solar policies from utilities and fossil fuel groups pushing anti-solar agendas.
“Pollution-free solar energy represents Maine and America’s most abundant energy resource” said Andrew LaVogue with Environment Maine. “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.
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.
“The uncertain regulatory environment around solar energy in Maine has stopped in its tracks our plans to install a community solar farm at our church.” Said Harold McWilliams, Chair Green Earth Committee Allen Avenue Unitarian Universalist Church Environment Maine’s “Stand Up for Solar” campaign will keep fighting these efforts to roll back solar energy policy in Maine.
"It's important that the public and elected officials understand that the attacks on solar power in Maine are part of a larger, coordinated national effort to slow the growth of home and business rooftop solar," said Glen Brand, Sierra Club Maine Chapter Director. "Maine needs to rapidly scale up solar power to reduce carbon and air pollution, stabilize energy costs, and generate good clean tech jobs. We can't allow powerful monopoly utilities like Central Maine Power and their supporters in the LePage administration to keep Maine dependent on dirty, expensive fossil fuels."
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 is finally catching on and providing tremendous benefits, reducing pollution, saving consumers and businesses money, and revitalizing local economies,” Said Mayor Ethan Strimling “Now, more than ever, states must lead the charge on a transition to solar power and renewable energy,” said Andrew LaVogue of Environment Maine.