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Floridians for Solar Choice Launches Ballot Initiative: Americans for Prosperity Stays Silent on the Issue

Floridians_for_Solar_Choice.jpgFloridians for Solar Choice, a recently formed alliance of conservatives, libertarians, and environmentalists, launched a ballot initiative earlier this month that would allow voters in the 2016 election to vote on whether or not property owners who generate solar electricity can sell the power directly to other ratepayers.

The coalition is made up of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, the Florida Retail Federation, the Christian Coalition, the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, and the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association. The Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida and the Libertarian Party of Florida are also supportive of the ballot initiative.

This collection of parties, while disagreeing on most political issues, all agree on wanting to open up the electricity market so solar energy can compete with the major utilities in the state, including Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light.

Tom Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice, told The Daily Fray he has been seeking support across the entire political spectrum in order to change Florida’s energy policy and “open it up to an all-of-the-above free market policy.” 

At the press conference announcing the ballot initiative earlier this month, Alex Snitker, the Libertarian Party of Florida Vice President, said,

“Who is the opposition? The opposition is the people that are profiting off of the current monopoly they have right now… One of the things libertarians complain about a lot of times is government-sponsored monopolies. I can’t think of a better example then what we currently have in Florida right now.”

Koch_at_AFP.jpgOne organization missing from this coalition, and whose sole mission is to take action “every day on behalf of the free market movement”, is Americans for Prosperity (AFP).  AFP is the grassroots organization funded by the billionaire fossil-fuel industrialists Charles and David Koch. The Koch brother's operation, including AFP, intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections.

At a press conference hosted by AFP at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on January 15, Brent Gardner, AFP’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs, said he couldn’t offer comments regarding the solar initiative in Florida because he was unfamiliar with the details. Instead, he said to direct questions to the AFP chapter in Florida.

American Gas Association Wants States To Submit Implementation Plans, Not Ignore Clean Power Plan

American_Gas_Association.jpgDavid McCurdy, President & CEO of the American Gas Association, said last week that he prefers state lawmakers and regulators submit their state implementation plans (SIP) to the EPA, rather than completely refuse to comply with the regulations. If states refuse, the EPA would be forced to impose a federal implementation plan (FIP).

The American Gas Association is a trade association representing natural gas supply companies. McCurdy was speaking at the 11th Annual State of the Energy Industry Forum sponsored by the United States Energy Association on Wednesday. He was asked about the Clean Power Plan during the question and answer portion of his presentation. 

If the Clean Power Plan is upheld in court, McCurdy said he wants utility companies and the natural gas industry to provide input to state lawmakers and regulators when writing the plans. This is in contrast to what other fossil fuel companies and front groups, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have been urging.

ALEC has finalized two model bills to block states from cooperating with the EPA.  

Aliya Haq at the Natural Resources Defense Council writes,

The first ALEC bill aims to effectively repeal a state’s authority to work with EPA in implementing the Clean Air Act. It requires the state agency to obtain unnecessary legislative approval on its carbon pollution plan… The second model bill attacking EPA’s Clean Power Plan forces states to drag their feet, prohibiting state agencies from submitting a carbon-reduction plan to EPA until all legal challenges are resolved. This is a formula for indefinite delay, since any frivolous lawsuit could hold up the plan.

Legislation incorporating the ALEC language has already been introduced and passed in several states.

As Haq explains, the plan will backfire on these lawmakers because the EPA is obligated by law to issue a federal plan for any state that fails to submit a SIP.

EEI President Says Energy Efficiency Is A Priority. Why Are His Members Working to Weaken State Efficiency Programs?

Thomas_Kuhn_EEI.jpgOn Wednesday, Thomas Kuhn, president of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the trade association for investor-owned utilities in America, said, “energy efficiency is a priority for our business.” Kuhn continued by saying efficiency programs, “have been saving customers a lot of money.”

Kuhn was representing EEI at the 11th Annual State of the Energy Industry Forum sponsored by the United States Energy Association.

Energy efficiency programs have been in the news recently, not because the EPA is looking to expand efficiency through the Clean Power Plan, but because utility companies have been urging lawmakers and regulators to weaken or eliminate efficiency programs altogether.

In November, the Florida Public Service Commission voted to gut the state’s energy efficiency goals by more than 90 percent for electric utilities (Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power Company, and Tampa Electric Company). The PSC accepted the staff's recommendation and sided with the utility’s belief that building additional power capacity is more beneficial to state ratepayers instead of spending money on energy efficiency programs. Research shows that Florida residents are spending 40 percent more on energy than the average American and energy efficiency is the least expensive way for utilities to decrease bills for ratepayers. 

In March, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence refused to either sign or veto a bill that would end Indiana’s statewide energy efficiency program, and as a result, by default, the legislation became law. Energy efficiency in Indiana saved enough energy in the past two years to power nearly 78,000 homes.

And, Arizona regulators are currently considering a proposal to eliminate the state’s efficiency program. The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) adopted the energy efficiency program in 2010 with a 5-0 vote after years of meetings and workshops with stakeholders. After gathering input, the commission ruled that investor-owned utilities in the state must reduce the amount of power sold by 22% by 2020. Electric cooperatives in the state must reduce the amount of power sold by 16.5% by 2020. The ACC found that energy efficiency programs would not only save money for customers, but it would also help create stable electricity prices, and reduce pollution and water usage. This is extremely important in Arizona where water consumption and the on-going drought are a huge concern.

Edison Electric Institute's Anti-Solar, PR Spending Revealed

Screen_Shot_2015-01-21_at_4.26.41_PM.pngIn Washington, D.C., special interests spend millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions. But the influence infrastructure reaches far beyond Capitol Hill, according to a new report by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) that calculates that the biggest trade associations have spent $1.2 billion on public relations (PR) and advertising between 2008 and 2012, to shift public opinion and pressure lawmakers. 

Over the past couple of decades, special interests from the coal, oil, utilities, and other energy industries have routinely used lobbying, public relations, and other means to impact decisions that could affect their businesses. Most Americans already know that lobbying and influence play a big role in the legislative process, especially in Washington, D.C. However, this new report reveals that a large portion of trade association spending goes to PR firms and advertising. 

american-petroluem-institute.jpgAccording to the report, the American Petroleum Institute (API), the oil and gas industry trade group:

“…spent more than $7 million lobbying federal officials in 2012. But that sum was dwarfed by the $85.5 million it paid to four public relations and advertising firms to, in effect, lobby the American public — including $51.9 million just to global PR giant Edelman. 

From 2008 through 2012, annual tax filings show, the API paid Edelman a staggering $327.4 million for advertising and public relations services, more than any other contractor.”  

API spent the most on public relations and advertising, but other energy-related spending brings the total for energy and natural resources associations tracked by the report to $430 million between 2008 to 2012. 

In the electricity industry, the Energy and Policy Institute has tracked the utility industry’s campaign to stop solar net metering over the past two years. The Center for Public Integrity’s latest report documents that Edison Electric Institute has spent $2.8 million on public relations and advertising between 2008 through 2012. However, according to EEI’s latest filings from 2013 (not included in the CPI report), the trade association paid Edelman nearly $1.1 million for public relations or advertising support. 

Our Prediction for 2015 on Utility Dive

We submitted the following prediction to Utility Dive after they asked: What do you think will happen in 2015?

See the rest of the predictions here

Renewable energy will be targeted in conservative state legislatures

Matthew Kasper, Fellow, Energy and Policy Institute: Koch funded-Americans for Prosperity and the American Legislative Exchange Council will continue to target states, such as Kansas and North Carolina, in an effort to pass legislation repealing renewable energy standards (RES). But, they will fail in the face of billions of dollars in private sector investment, economic development, and job creation in cleantech industries.

Meanwhile, the Ohio committee established to study the state’s RES will endorse the elimination of the law. The governor will sign it into law — making Ohio the first state to officially repeal a RES. The action will leave many wondering if state lawmakers and regulators read the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.  Repealing the RES and continuing Ohio’s reliance on coal will cripple the state’s ability to respond to carbon pollution regulations. Other states will consider similar efforts next year, but ultimately decide not to weaken pro-clean energy and energy efficiency policies.

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