Palm Springs – 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 said a new report released by Environment California Research & Policy Center.
Environment California Research & Policy Center was joined by Climate Action Palm Springs, Courageous Resistance, Sierra Club, Hot Purple Energy, and a City Council member at a rally to release the report.
Standing in front of solar panels at Hot Purple Energy, Casey Cousineau of Environment California Research & Policy Center, highlighted the potential for solar development. “Pollution-free solar energy represents California’s most abundant energy resource.” She went on to say, “For our climate and our environment, we can’t let special interest forces in the fossil fuel industry to block the bright potential of solar power.”
The report, Blocking the Sun, documents 20 fossil fuel backed groups and electric utilities running some of the most aggressive campaigns to slow the growth of solar energy in 12 states, including the Imperial Irrigation District.
Of the findings, the report documents how the “Imperial Irrigation District (IID), a publicly-owned utility that serves over 6,000 square miles of California including parts of San Diego and Riverside counties, abruptly announced it would be ending its net metering payments for all new solar customers.” Net metering is seen as a key to making solar attainable for most households and creates a return on the investment in rooftop solar. “IID’s decision not only stunted future solar energy growth in its territory, but it also stranded an estimated 1,200 owners of homes and businesses who had already signed contracts with solar installers, were in the midst of installing projects, or had already installed solar panels but not yet connected to the grid.”
"Solar has the chance to become a leading technology,” said Rachel Cross of Frontier Group, report co-author. “It’s ready, it’s more accessible every year, and it's a solution for a world that needs to quit burning carbon. Allowing electric companies and fossil fuel interests to stand in the way of that kind of progress defies common sense."
In mid-2017, 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.
Newly-elected City Councilmember, Lisa Middleton, was in attendance and discussed her work on the city ordinance that would require solar installation for new construction or major renovations. "One of the questions I like to ask in my meetings, 'How many people think that at the end of the 21st century we will be digging up mountains to get coal to light our homes?' Every time, people laugh." She went onto say, "I want Plam Springs and the state of California to be the leaders in moving toward the future and the future is renewable energy."
“Why not?,” Nate Otto, Owner of Hot Purple Energy, exclaimed about solar expansion. “It is the only thing that makes sense for our health and the health of our environment! I am for space exploration and Elon Musk, I am just not sure my daughter wants to live there! ”
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.
"Progress is being threatened by some electric utilities like the Imperial Irrigation District and fossil fuel backed groups like the Koch brothers Americans for Prosperity. These groups are actively working to block our progress, both here and across the country," said Ellen Lockert, Founder of Climate Action Palm Springs. She had some choice words for those who opposed solar. "They will be held accountable for blocking the path to a clean, prosperous and secure renewable energy future for Americans.”