Fossil fuel and utility interests, concerned about the rise of cheap clean energy, are financing attacks on pro-clean energy policies in an effort to delay the growth of their competition in the marketplace. The Koch Brothers and their allies want to continue selling as much coal, oil, and gas as possible – and in their effort to rollback clean energy policies, are spreading falsehoods about the energy market.
This report documents how and where fossil fuel companies and front groups have attacked renewable energy standards and net metering policies throughout the country in 2013 and 2014.
Click on the front groups below to learn how these organizations attacked renewable energy standards and net metering policies throughout the country in 2013 and 2014.
Americans For Prosperity
Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a national astroturf group founded and funded by billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, the owners of Koch Industries. In the 2012 presidential election, AFP was a significant component of the Koch’s $400 million political operation, receiving large amounts of money from Koch-linked dark money groups like Freedom Partners, American Encore, and DonorsTrust. In 2015, Politico reported that the Koch brothers’ political network plans to spend $889 million for the run-up to the 2016 election, including an estimated $125 million for just AFP.
AFP is registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(4) and as such, it is not required to disclose its donors, nor does it. It is allowed to advocate for political issues, but cannot solicit votes for a specific candidate.
AFP is in sync with other groups funded by the Koch brothers and the Koch’s special interest groups that work against initiatives such as protecting the environment and combating climate change. AFP also distorts climate change science and the economics to “halt the encroachment of government.”
The astroturf group attacked solar energy in Florida after the Floridians for Solar Choice, a recently formed alliance of conservatives, libertarians, and environmentalists, launched a ballot initiative in 2015 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 up to 2 megawatts of solar power. Three months after the ballot initiative was launched, the Florida Chapter of AFP circulated emails across the state criticizing the initiative as a way of using “government and taxpayers to prop up the solar industry.”North Carolina Representative Mike Hager at an Americans For Prosperity event.
Then in May, the North Carolina representatives passed a bill that included a provision that would freeze of the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standard and create a committee to study its impact, which is similar to what developed last year in Ohio. This occurred just a few weeks after House Majority Leader Hager bill to freeze the state’s standard failed as a standalone bill. After the provisions passed the House, the North Carolina Chapter of AFP applauded and began to put pressure on the General Assembly to pass the bill. AFP also phone-banked to get voters to call state officials to send HB 760 (later changed to HB 332) to the governor’s desk. The state chapter also held a statewide Day of Action on May 16 to gather activists to do a full day of phone-banking and door-knocking to put pressure on the Senate. A week later, the state chapter released a “jobs agenda” that promoted repealing the state renewable energy standard. Rep. Hager was at the press conference to lend his support.
On a national level, however, Donald Bryson and Jeff Glendening, the North Carolina state director and Kansas state director for AFP, respectively, had an op-ed published on July 10 in The Wall Street Journal. The AFP directors, with help from WSJ, declared that states are “unplugging” renewable energy standards and used the developments in Kansas, North Carolina, and West Virginia as evidence. Similar to the blogs and op-eds published and written by State Policy Network organizations or Heartland “experts” like Marita Noon in 2015, Bryson and Glendening cited the Institute for Energy Research, Utah State University and Strata, and the Manhattan Institute. All of those cited Koch-connected organizations or fossil fuel companies, as we have detailed, fund organizations; and, all of those reports have serious flaws, as this report notes.
However, the groundwork that was once again built this year by Heartland Institute, Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy, AFP, and all the groups in this report, culminates in not only getting legislators to introduce bills that attacks renewable energy, but also the WSJ publishing their erroneous claims.
It is a perfect encapsulation of the strategy to create and fund many different organizations and front groups to pretend a chorus of voices agree that renewable energy laws must be eliminated – or that they are even being repealed.
Dorothy Barnett, Executive Director of the Climate+Earth Project, responded to the WSJ opinion piece on July 20. Barnett writes,
Here’s the truth: States that continue to embrace renewable energy standards are reaping the economic benefits. In June, for instance, a broad coalition of rural conservatives and local businesses rejected an attempt to end Texas’ RPS, even as renewable energy is bringing in huge amounts of private investments while keeping Texans’ electricity prices low. It’s worth noting that 29 states maintain RPS standards, and that half a dozen states – including Hawaii, Vermont and California – are actually in the process of expanding and extending their RPS laws. On the flip side, Koch-funded groups have pushed anti-RPS bills in Colorado, New Mexico and New Hampshire, and each time they failed.
Americans for Tax Reform
Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) is an anti-tax lobbying group founded by Grover Norquist. ATR is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, and is best known for its “Taxpayer Protection Pledge,” which asks candidates for office to commit themselves in writing to oppose all tax increases.
ATR has received funding from a number of corporate interests and Koch-affiliated foundations including the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, Center for Protect Patient Rights, R.J. Reynolds, the Tobacco Institute, DonorsTrust, and Karl Rove’s Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (GPS).
The group has long supported bills to repeal, weaken, or freeze renewable energy standards. Last year, ATR applauded the signing of SB 310 in Ohio, which froze the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standard. In 2013, Norquist lobbied in Kansas for the weakening of that state’s energy standard. In 2011, Norquist wrote an opinion article in Politico citing Beacon Hill Institute as a reason to oppose renewable energy laws and for state lawmakers to repeal laws that are already in place.
This year, ATR was not as active in efforts to repeal or weaken clean energy laws, compared to prior years, which has raised questions regarding a possible change of funding. Nevertheless, ATR was still involved in at least one state fight. The group signed onto a coalition letter sent to North Carolina state lawmakers urging them to freeze the state’s renewable energy standard.
American Legislative Exchange Council
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) connects lawmakers with corporate lobbyists to produces model bills that are then introduced in legislatures across the country. Model bills can be brought to ALEC by the lobbyists themselves, which has led some to describe this organization as a “corporate bill mill.” In fact, 98% of ALEC’s funding comes from corporations or corporate “foundations” like the Charles G. Koch Foundation. This money is then used to subsidize lawmakers’ trips to ALEC meetings, where they are wined, dined, and then vote in committee meetings, side-by-side with lobbyists, on the model bills.
Most recently, a report aired on Atlanta’s NBC TV Channel WXIA 11 showing investigative reporter Brendan Keefe revealing an exchange at a hotel bar between a lobbyist and an ALEC state legislator explaining how the subsidizing process works.
“Do you have to pay your own way?” Keefe asked the state legislator. The lawmaker answered by explaining how the State Chair of ALEC in his home state looks for “financial supporters, lobbyists, and the like to send us a couple thousand bucks every so often.”
ALEC denied to the investigative reporter that it subsidizes legislators’ trips with corporation money.
The bills that have come out of ALEC over the past few years do much to advance the corporate members’ interests at the expense of both the environment and the public’s health. Examples include bills that would prevent the EPA from regulating carbon dioxide emissions, and a bill giving corporations legal protections against victims of lead poisoning. ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force, which includes representatives from major fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries, Duke Energy, and Peabody Energy, has approved model bills to repeal renewable energy standards (RES), weaken RES laws by watering them down with non-renewable sources of electricity, and eliminate solar net metering policies.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver aired a segment on ALEC in 2014, and explained how the organization makes state lawmakers’ jobs “troublingly easy.” Oliver highlighted the model legislation that repeals RES laws and said, “so as long as you can remember and spell the name of your state, you can introduce legislation.” And this year, it seems that many legislators could remember their state name and spell it correctly, because many model bills were introduced. In fact, one bill appearing in the state of Washington, which weakens that state’s RES, is nearly identical to an ALEC model bill that was distributed to its members this year.
Once ALEC model bills are introduced, allied legislators and fossil fuel-funded front groups cite flawed reports to back up their reasoning to either repeal or weaken RES laws or net metering laws. The reports cited are written by the fossil fuel-funded Beacon Hill Institute housed at Suffolk University, and the Koch-funded professor, Randy Simmons, who works at Utah State University. The groups tout university studies to generate more support to eliminate or weaken clean energy laws, and then State Policy Network lobbyists work to increase co-sponsors while providing testimony in favor of the ALEC bills. Finally, fossil fuel-funded member-based groups, such as Americans for Prosperity, put additional pressure on lawmakers to pass ALEC model bills.
In total, EPI uncovered 14 ALEC-related or inspired model bills in 2015 attacking renewable energy standards and net metering laws. These do not include the ALEC model bills that targeted state environmental agencies’ ability to comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). The Natural Resources Defense Council reported that were at least 13 bills in 2015 that attacked the CPP.
Corporations and trade associations also began to use ALEC’s new organization, the American City County Exchange (ACCE), to lobby lawmakers. ACCE’s winter “policy summit” featured Todd Wynn of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which is the trade association for investor-owned electric utility companies. Wynn was also a former ALEC staffer.
At the summit, Wynn lobbied local elected officials about net metering and municipalization. He told the public officials at the ACCE meeting, “Engage and get to know your local electric utility. Those guys are really great. They can be awesome assets for you. They can help you out with your races at some point in time as well, which is always positive.”
Beacon Hill Institute
Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) is based in the economics department of Suffolk University, a private university located in Boston, Massachusetts. BHI is known for “marshaling economic arguments to roll back clean energy programs in the [United States],” as reported by The Guardian. The institute’s executive director, David Tuerck, has a history of manipulating science on tobacco smoke and climate change. He is currently listed as an “expert” on Heartland’s website and is a regular speaker at their climate denial conferences.
BHI is an affiliate of the State Policy Network (SPN) and has most recently been cited by both American Legislative Exchange Council members and SPN organizations to discredit renewable energy standards. The reports attacking the laws produced by BHI have been thoroughly debunked by independent economists at Synapse Energy Economics. Synapse found “fundamental flaws in both the energy data and the economic modeling used by BHI.” Nevertheless, at least 20 states have seen BHI anti-RES reports over the years.
So far in 2015, BHI has spent its money and time attacking the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. A series of 16 reports opposing the carbon dioxide rules have been funded by a grant passed through a corporate-linked front group called the Employment Policies Institute, run by Richard Berman. Berman is a corporate lobbyist known as “Dr. Evil,” whose front groups “have launched attack ads against the EPA, environmental groups, fishermen and sportsmen, and green building organisations,” according to Media Matters. As CBS’ 60 Minutes documented, Berman is infamous for being the “arch-enemy” of government efforts to reduce the use of “products like caffeine, salt, fast food and the oil they fry it in,” and for opposing “Mothers Against Drunk Driving, animal rights activists, food watchdog groups, and unions of every kind.”
Some of BHI’s reports have been released in partnership with industry-funded state think tanks with ties to the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel special interest groups, and pitched to advance the agenda of model legislation from ALEC. These actions mimic prior ones with regards to their anti-RES reports: a BHI report is published and it’s then amplified via a SPN affiliate while ALEC model legislation is introduced.
The organization has also received funding from foundations and organizations associated with the Koch Brothers and other fossil fuel interests.
Below is a list of Beacon Hill Institute anti-RES reports by publication date, including any State Policy Network co-publishers:
- North Carolina, August 2009, conducted for the John Locke Foundation
- Massachusetts, October 2010
- Montana, January 2011, with American Tradition Institute (ATI) and Montana Policy Institute
- Colorado, February 2011, with ATI
- New Mexico, February 2011, with ATI and Rio Grande Foundation
- Oregon, March 2011, with Cascade Policy Institute
- Minnesota, April 2011, with ATI and Minnesota Free Market Institute
- Ohio, April 2011, with ATI
- Delaware, May 2011, with ATI and Caesar Rodney Institute
- Kansas, July 2012, with Kansas Policy Institute
- Maine, September 2012, with Maine Heritage Policy Center
- Michigan, September 2012, with Mackinac Center
- Missouri, November 2012
- Pennsylvania, December 2012, with Commonwealth Foundation
- Wisconsin, March 2013, with Wisconsin Policy Research Center
- Washington, April 2013, with Washington Policy Center
- Nevada, April 2013, with Nevada Policy Research Institute
- Arizona, April 2013
- New Jersey, April 2014
- Maryland, April 2014
Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy
The Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE) is a fossil fuel-funded advocacy group based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CARE is funded by more than 250 members, including New Mexico oil and gas producers. The group opposes environmental activism and the pursuit of “green,” or sustainable, energy development, saying the pursuit of solar and wind power “will end the America we know and love.” The group refers to sustainable energy advocates as “Gang Green.”
Marita Noon is the executive director at CARE. Noon is also listed as an “Expert” on The Heartland Institute’s website. CARE was a co-sponsor of Heartland’s first International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC1).
In Louisiana, Noon published an op-ed in The Advocate, misleading readers by claiming, “No other industry receives $63.5 million of Louisiana taxpayer’s dollars in one year.” Noon attempts to claim that because the fossil fuel industry pays some taxes, it “gives” while the solar industry “takes.” Energy & Policy Institute’s analysis showed that the oil and gas industry has received at least $1.2 billion since 2010. A calculation of total oil and gas subsidies in Louisiana by Earth Track revealed that oil and gas subsidies in 2012 were at a minimum over $500 million. The utility, oil, and gas industry received an additional $964 million from 2008-2010 as part of the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption. For the electricity generation and utility sectors alone, the state of Louisiana subsidized major utility companies by $276 million over that three year period.
Noon also published another column that disregarded common sense to claim that it’s a bad time to be in the renewable energy industry and cited Louisiana as one of the reasons. Numerous sources, including business experts, international agencies, and financial institutions, agree that the renewable energy industry is booming.
CARE released a paper, “Solar Power in the U.S.: Lessons Learned and Guidance for Policymakers” in March 2015. The press release states that the report is intended to, “educate both consumers and lawmakers about the various consequences of using solar energy.” Additionally, the American Legislative Exchange Council featured CARE’s report in an email to members.
In Florida, Noon submitted testimony directing the Public Service Commission to her report.
Energy & Environment Legal Institute
The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) is a nonprofit think tank [formerly the American Tradition Institute (ATI)] that engages in litigation and policy research to “hold accountable those who seek destructive government regulation that’s based on agenda-driven policy making, junk science, and hysteria.” The organization’s website at one time stated it “is part of a broader network of groups with close ties to energy interests that have long fought greenhouse gas regulation,” although that text has now been removed.
In 2012, The Guardian published a memo prepared by an E&E Legal fellow about a secret anti-wind meeting between local anti-clean energy groups and national fossil fuel-funded organizations seeking to organize widespread opposition against wind energy through a deceptive public relations campaign. Other members of E&E Legal’s senior leadership have ties to fossil fuel interests as well: David Schnare, a fossil fuel-funded pundit with connections to The Heartland Institute, State Policy Network, and other front groups; and Chris Horner, a fossil fuel-funded climate denier who works at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an advocacy group with ties to tobacco disinformation campaigns.
In 2011, ATI and plaintiff Rod Luck sued the State of Colorado over the state’s renewable energy standard, arguing that the law violates the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce clause by discriminating against out-of-state energy sources. But this year, a federal judge upheld Colorado’s RES by rejecting E&E Legal’s claims.
In 2014, Tom Tanton, Director of Science and Technology Assessment for E&E Legal, testified in Congress on state energy policies. Tanton criticized renewable energy standards and cited papers published by his organization that were produced by the Beacon Hill Institute. He also referenced an ALEC policy paper, which he authored, to back up his claim that net metering is an unfair policy.
E&E Legal’s attacks on renewable energy policies continued in 2015 in addition to their attacks on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Tanton joined the Heartland Daily Podcast in January to discuss why states should re-examine their RES policies. Schnare also authored a post attacking RES laws. He cited a report by the Institute for Political Economy at Utah State University on Kansas’ RES. Schnare fails to mention the Koch-funding connection with that report. He concluded his post by telling readers to urge their state representatives to oppose RES laws, and writes, “It’s your money and your lives at stake.”
The Heartland Institute is a fossil fuel-funded front group with over $800,000 in contributions from fossil fuel interests that has routinely attacked clean energy policies and the science behind climate change. In 2012, Heartland was the center of controversy after comparing people that believe in climate change to the Unabomber. In the past, Heartland worked with the tobacco industry to minimize the negative public perception that second-hand tobacco smoke was bad for your health and lobbied against public health reforms.
Heartland is a primary player in attacks on renewable energy standards across the country. The organization sponsored the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “Electricity Freedom Act,” model legislation in 2012 that, if passed, would repeal state renewable energy standards. Efforts to eliminate these pro-clean energy policies failed in 16 states across the country in the last year and failed country-wide in 2015.
Supporters of Heartland’s efforts will point to West Virginia and Kansas as states where it had succeeded in repealing RES laws, but these supporters fail to acknowledge that West Virginia’s law featured coal as an eligible source of “renewables” under the law, and Kansas had already achieved the 20% renewables mandate. In addition, the North Carolina has yet to pass the senate’s version of an RES freeze bill. Heartland and allies can only point to Ohio as a state that has paused its RES law, which it did in 2014. Yet, they again fail to acknowledge that the renewable energy requirements begin again next year if no action is taken by the legislature.
Heartland was also involved in attacking pro-solar policies and initiatives in multiple states in 2015. In each of these fights, Heartland lobbied and advocated for the repeal of the state’s renewable energy law using misinformation and flawed economic research.
In Colorado, Heartland highlighted the Energy & Environment Legal Institute’s law suit claiming that the state’s RES was unconstitutional. Heartland also pressured state lawmakers to repeal the state’s RES, spread disinformation about how the law has caused electricity prices to rise faster than the national average. However, if one reviews the Energy Information Administration’s data on electricity prices, then one can find that Colorado prices increased only 3.3% faster than the national average – an increase that is mostly a result of the state’s fuel switch to natural gas and upgrades to pipelines. Heartland also promoted fossil fuel-funded Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy Executive Director Marita Noon’s misinformed blog attacking renewable energy policies.
In Louisiana, Heartland pushed Governor Bobby Jindal and the state legislature to eliminate state tax credits for solar energy. The organization again used misinformation to attack the pro-solar policy, claiming that solar tax credits were responsible for “running up large deficits” and state credits were adding to a “mountain of federal government favoritism.” While solar industry tax credits totaled approximately $57 million in 2015, eliminating these tax credits would have little impact on the state’s projected $1.6 billion budget deficit. The bill passed by the legislature would save approximately $19 million.
Heartland’s attacks on clean energy fail to account for much larger subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. A calculation of total oil and gas subsidies in Louisiana by Earth Track details that oil and gas subsidies in 2012 were at a minimum over $500 million. In addition, severance tax losses, almost exclusively from oil and gas, cost the state $354 million in 2010. Severance taxes help insure the costs associated with drilling are paid by the producers to help alleviate the burden on state and local taxpayers. An example of this includes constructing and maintaining roads to extractive sites. Furthermore, the utility, oil, and gas industry received an additional $964 million from 2008 to 2010 as part of the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption. For the electricity generation and utility sectors alone, the state of Louisiana subsidized major utility companies by $276 million over three years. These ratepayer subsidies for utility interests are generally not factored into the price of electricity from natural gas.
In continuing their attack on solar in Louisiana, Heartland also cited Acadian Consulting Group’s flawed report for the Public Service Commission on net metering as proof that solar is passing costs onto other ratepayers. Acadian Consulting, run by David Dismukes, was criticized by solar companies for its ties to the fossil fuel and utility industry, which may have impacted the rigor and outcome of their report. In the past, Dismukes has “publicly criticized renewable energy subsidies, while praising those for fossil fuels.” According to reporting from The Times-Picayune, Acadian has received direct funding from industry groups on several research projects, including $20,000 from the America’s Natural Gas Alliance for a report that was critical of federal wind energy subsidies. Acadian’s clients include Duke Energy, NRG Energy, Sempra Energy. The Sierra Club exposed severe flaws in Dismukes’ report, stating,
No other net-metering cost-benefit analysis in the nation has included state-authorized tax incentives as a cost. Public utility commissions have no authority over tax incentives and legislative policy choices, and such incentives are a cost to the state treasury not utilities or ratepayers. When these tax incentives are excluded from the utility’s cost calculation, as they should be, the study demonstrates that actually net metering provides a clear economic benefit to utilities and ratepayers.
Heartland has joined other fossil fuel-funded opponents of the Florida ballot initiative, including Americans for Prosperity, in attacking the attempt to open the Florida electricity market to solar companies, citing subsidies for solar installations.
In Kansas, Heartland attacked the state’s RES, echoing a blog published by Bonner Cohen from the State Policy Network group, National Center for Public Policy Research. In the post, Cohen cites a report by the Utah State University Institute for Political Economy, which produced debunked economic analysis in North Carolina and Kansas attacking those states’ renewable energy laws. The Utah State University report was authored by Randy Simmons, the “Charles G. Koch Professor of Political Economy” and used inflated costs for renewable energy to claim a negative impact on ratepayers’ income and the state economy. Once corrected, the Utah State University/Strata study actually shows that renewable energy standards (and the increased use of wind energy) create economic benefits.
Heartland also advocated against the Kansas renewable energy standard in a Washington Times op-ed, claiming that energy prices skyrocketed without providing any evidence. Energy & Policy Institute debunked the Heartland’s claims about “skyrocketing energy prices” last year. James Taylor claims that because electricity prices in Kansas have risen faster than the national average since 2009, the state’s RPS is causing a spike in electricity prices. But Taylor ignores the fact that electricity prices are changing based on a number of different factors.
In 2015, anti-clean energy groups were only able to convert the state’s renewable energy standard into a “voluntary goal” but only after utilities exceeded the standard five years early. Heartland’s misinformation campaign and desperate efforts to repeal a state renewable energy will have no affect on renewable energy growth in the state of Kansas.
The New Mexico State Legislature considered a bill that would freeze the state’s renewable energy standard but it failed to move through the Senate after passing the State House of Representatives. Heartland published a misleading blog attacking opponents of the anti-clean energy bill and promoting the views of allied Rio Grande Foundation in promoting the renewable energy standard repeal. The State Policy Network’s Rio Grande Foundation also advocated for the bill.
Despite misinformation being echoed by the Heartland Institute and Rio Grande Foundation, data from the Energy Information Administration shows that the New Mexico renewable energy law is not causing an increase in electricity prices over states that do not have renewable energy standards. The average increase in electricity prices across the United States from 2012 to 2013 was 2.86%, while the increase in electricity prices in New Mexico was just 2.74%. Also, according to an empirical study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, renewable energy standards have not caused electricity rates to increase more rapidly than states that do not have these standards.
In North Carolina, the House of Representatives passed a bill to freeze the renewable energy standard. It was sponsored by ALEC member Mike Hager, a former Duke Energy employee. In the Senate, the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Bob Rucho, pushed the bill through his committee after refusing to count the votes during a controversial voice vote, amidst objections from both political parties. The entire state senate has yet to vote on the bill.
Heartland then published a flawed editorial on the supposed economic costs of the state’s renewable energy law by Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, a State Policy Network group. Cohen, as mentioned above, cites the work of the Koch-backed Institute for Political Economy at Utah State University, which produced misleading reports attacking state renewable energy laws.
In addition, Heartland signed a coalition letter spearheaded by Americans for Prosperity (AFP) that called on the state legislature to repeal the renewable portfolio standard. The letter cited the debunked Beacon Hill Institute report on the North Carolina RES that inflated the costs of renewable energy and ignored entire statutes written into the law to keep costs down. The AFP was also signed by a smorgasbord of fossil fuel-funded front groups and organizations tied to the Koch political network.
In Oklahoma, legislators reached a compromise with the wind energy industry, passing two bills that would phase out the state’s five-year property tax exemption for wind energy projects and eliminate wind energy’s eligibility for a job creation tax credit in the state, in exchange for keeping in place a zero-emission tax credit until the end of 2020. Governor Mary Fallin signed the bills in May 2015, stating,
Today, Oklahoma’s wind industry is among the strongest in the nation and is an integral part of our power grid and our economy. Wind energy is here to stay. It no longer needs the same level of support and encouragement from the state. I appreciate the wind industry’s participation in crafting this compromise and applaud the legislative leaders, especially Representative Earl Sears and Senator Mike Mazzei that invited them to the table. These bills will ensure we accomplish the dual goals of supporting an ‘all of the above’ energy strategy while delivering much-needed fiscal reform.
Heartland used the Oklahoma compromise as supposed evidence that states are backing away from RES laws. However, the bills passed by the Oklahoma legislature in 2015 were related to wind energy incentives and tax credits, not the RES. Oklahoma has already met its voluntary renewable energy goal of 15% by 2015. According to the most recent data available from the Energy Information Administration, Oklahoma produces 19.4% of its electricity from renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and hydropower.
The Texas Senate passed a bill in April, SB 931, that would have ended the state’s RES and the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, which is a program to build high-capacity power lines that link wind-rich areas of the state to the highly populated cities. The Texas House of Representatives ended its 2015 legislative session without taking up the measure, effectively killing the repeal attempt. Heartland weighed into the debate by again promoting Marita Noon’s misinformed blog attacking RES laws.
The West Virginia State Legislature passed a bill in January 2015 to repeal the state’s Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, and Governor Earl Tomblin signed the bill in February. While this new law makes West Virginia the first state to fully repeal a renewable energy standard, the West Virginia statute did not actually require renewable energy development, because the standard could be met by natural gas, waste coal, and other carbon-intensive energy sources (like burning tires). Heartland applauded the West Virginia bill, and then claimed it as a victory. In addition, Heartland’s comments on the West Virginia standard repeated misleading claims that renewable energy standards drive up electricity costs and hurt the economy. Heartland’s James Taylor said,
West Virginia policymakers recognized, in a bipartisan and overwhelming manner, that renewable power mandates drive up electricity costs, kill jobs, punish the economy, and inflict substantial unintentional harm on the environment. Fortunately for electricity consumers and environmentalists, several other states are poised to follow West Virginia’s lead and will be considering similar legislation in 2015.
Institute for Energy Research / American Energy Alliance
The Institute for Energy Research (IER) is a nonprofit “partner” organization of the American Energy Alliance, which is a 501(c)(4) grassroots organization designed to communicate IER’s policies to voters. IER was founded in 1989 from a predecessor nonprofit organization registered by Charles Koch and Robert L. Bradley Jr. The American Energy Alliance was founded by the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute to fight the BTU tax proposal in 1993, and in recent years has been funded by Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries.
Last year, IER released a report criticizing renewable energy laws and said electricity prices are higher in states with RES laws, but failed to provide any other factors in the cost hikes. Nevertheless, this year, DBL Investors shed light on that claim and found that in fact, “states relying more on renewable generation have experienced retail electricity prices comparable to, or cheaper than, states relying less on renewable generation.” The 10 states with the greatest share of generation from renewables averaged a retail electricity price of 9.79 cents/kWh in 2013, versus an average of 10.28 cents/kWh for the 10 states with the least share of renewable electricity generation.
This year, IER was not actively working to weaken or repeal RES laws across the country compared to prior years. For example, Daniel Simmons, Director of Regulatory and State Affairs at IER, testified in 2013 before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee regarding that state’s RES. In 2014, IER’s Travis Fisher submitted written testimony in Kansas on a proposed repeal of that state’s RES.
However, IER released a report in 2015 on the topic of net metering, saying the policy only benefits higher-income households. IER based the claims mostly from the report authored by David Dismukes of the Acadian Consulting Group.
State Policy Network
The State Policy Network (SPN) is a coordinated network of conservative think tanks in every state in the country. It’s an $120 million empire that helps drive corporate-backed bills in state capitals by issuing reports and testifying in favor of the legislation. The legislation is often drafted by company lobbyists at American Legislative Exchange Council meetings.
In 2013, The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer highlighted SPN and wrote, “Although the think tanks have largely operated under the radar, the cumulative enterprise is impressively large, according to the [Center for Media and Democracy] report. In 2011, the network funneled $79 million into promoting conservative policies at the state level.” It is considered ALEC’s biggest ally in the states.
Mayer also revealed that Tracie Sharp, president and CEO of SPN, said at the SPN annual meeting in 2013 that “the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen” and that “the grants are driven by donor intent.”
The Internal Revenue Service classifies most of the think tanks in SPN as 501(c)(3) charities, which means that they are exempt from taxation. However, The Guardian revealed,
Though the groups are not involved in election campaigns, they are subject to strict restrictions on the amount of lobbying they are allowed to perform. Several of the grand bits contained in The Guardian documents propose the launch of “media campaigns” aimed at changing state laws and policies, or refer to “advancing model legislation” and “candidate briefings”, in ways that arguably cross the line into lobbying.
SPN, along with the think tanks in its network, receive money from foundations that are funded by the Koch Brothers, and two secretive groups called the “Dark Money ATM” of the conservative movement: DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund.
In 2015, SPN continued its role as a coordinating umbrella group to advance legislation to repeal or weaken clean energy laws in conjunction with ALEC. E&E News reported that SPN worked to block funding for several state agencies tasked with developing state implementation plans for the Clean Power Plan.
The most recent analysis of the SPN and its main members’ annual revenues is available at the Center for Media and Democracy.
Click on the states below to review what clean energy policies were attacked in 2013 and 2014.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Arizona
Arizona Net Metering Fight: 2013-2014
In late 2013, Arizona Public Service (APS) proposed charging customers who install rooftop solar panels an additional $50-100 on their monthly bills as an additional fee for connecting to the grid. APS sought to charge ratepayers who generate solar power despite the fact that multiple studies show that the value of distributed solar energy to the grid exceeds what homeowners are reimbursed for power they are producing.
APS led the first assault of a national campaign to weaken net metering policies, part of the utility trade association Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) long-term strategy to address business competition from distributed energy generation like solar. APS is an investor-owned utility that serves over one million customers and generates the majority of its electricity from coal, nuclear, gas, and oil.
Arizona Renewable Energy Standard Fight: 2013
In early 2013, Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) member Gary Pierce sought to weaken the state’s clean energy law by reducing the “Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST).” But, Pierce withdrew his proposal in March after an outcry from solar industry advocates that weakening the REST would result in job losses in the state.
Pierce’s withdrawal of the REST-weakening proposal came only after the ACC eliminated incentives for commercial solar development, a move that one business leader said “effectively kills the commercial solar marketing in Arizona.”
Four (out of five) of the ACC members have been active members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Pierce attended at least one ALEC meeting while serving on the ACC in 2010 and was tagged in a Facebook photo with ALEC legislators from Arizona. An article from Bloomberg revealed that current ACC Chairman Bob Stump is a former member of ALEC’s task force on health care public policy, which is also detailed in an ALEC document and his legislative biography. Commissioner Brenda Burns served on ALEC’s board for nine years, becoming the group’s national Chairwoman in 1999, according to her commission biography. Commissioner Bob Burns is a former ALEC state chairman for Arizona.
The Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) produced a report in April 2013 using the same flawed methodology to claim that the REST would have a severe, negative economic impact on the state of Arizona. The Koch-funded Goldwater Institute, part of the State Policy Network, also attacked the clean energy law and cited the flawed BHI report as reason for eliminating the REST.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Connecticut
In 2013, there were several attempts in Connecticut to incorporate hydropower into the state’s RES law. One of these passed the legislature and was signed into law, resulting in a minor change to existing law.
The bill incorporating hydropower, SB 1138, was co-sponsored by ALEC member and Representative DebraLee Hoven, former State Chair in Connecticut, and passed after multiple amendments as a minor change to the renewable energy standard (RES). According to ALEC’s bylaws, State Chairs are responsible for making sure that ALEC bills are introduced. The law now allows hydroelectric power to qualify for the RES, but only if utilities prove that they cannot get enough power from solar, wind, and fuel cells.
A previous bill to add existing hydropower into Connecticut’s RES, HB 6086, was solely sponsored by ALEC’s Former National Chairman, Connecticut Representative John Piscopo. Rep. Piscopo has been a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture (EEA) task force, where the RES rollback model bills originated.
Other bills were also introduced to weaken the state’s clean energy law. HB 5475, sponsored by ALEC member Rep. Lawrence G. Miller (a member of the EEA task force), would have slowed the implementation of the RES by five years. Finally, the state’s Energy & Technology Joint Committee introduced HB 6532, which stalled after public hearing. It would have lessened the non-compliance fee for utilities not meeting the RES goals. Three known ALEC members sit on the committee: Rep. Dan Carter, Rep. Lawrence Miller, and Rep. John Piscopo.
Fossil fuel front groups including Heartland Institute, Institute for Energy Research, and SPN member The Yankee Institute, applauded the use of existing hydro in Connecticut’s RES law, but also included a call for full repeal of Connecticut’s RES. The Yankee Institute made repealing the RES a policy priority in their 2012 Policy Road Map.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Kansas
Kansas Renewable Energy Standard Fight in 2014:
Fossil fuel interests worked to repeal the renewable energy standard through the entire legislative session in 2014, and were defeated six times in Kansas, including on the last day of the session. The Kansas House repeatedly rejected the bill (HB 2014) seeking to repeal the RES after it passed the Kansas Senate in March 2014.
Heartland Institute Pushes Flawed Analysis Attacking RES
The fossil fuel-funded Heartland Institute used flawed analysis to inflate the cost of renewable energy standards (RES), in an attempt to eliminate pro-clean energy laws in states across the country. Kansas’ renewable energy standard has not led to the huge increases in electricity prices claimed by Heartland Institute, but rather has fostered billions of dollars of investment in wind power and created thousands of jobs.
Heartland Institute’s James Taylor claimed that because electricity prices in Kansas have risen faster than the national average since 2009, the state’s RES is causing a spike in electricity prices. But Taylor ignored the fact that electricity prices change because of a number of different factors.
In reality, Kansas uses much less natural gas (see Kansas Electricity Profile Table 5) than the national average (see United States Electricity Profile Table 5).
Since 2009, the low price of natural gas due to the fracking boom in the United States led to a decreased rise in electricity rates around in country, especially in states that use natural gas for electricity generation. In 2010, Kansas used natural gas for only 4.8% of electricity generated and coal for 67.8%. Nationwide, the electric power industry used natural gas for 23.9% of electricity generated, which explains, in part, why Kansas saw a more dramatic increase in electricity rates than the rest of the country. Furthermore, from 2009-2011, the average cost of coal increased 7.5% in the United States, much faster than the 2.3% average electricity price increase cited by Taylor.
Kansas uses more coal for electricity generation, which accounts, in part, for the increased rise of electricity prices in the state as compared to the national average.
The American Wind Energy Association explained why utilities are raising rates in a blog post debunking Heartland Institute’s flawed analysis: “The cost of providing other forms of electricity to consumers has been increasing, and in Kansas, upgrades to aging plants have prompted Kansas City Power & Light to request rate increases. Westar Energy also sought rate increases for its customers to help finance its share of necessary upgrades to outdated facilities.”
Utility Data Provide True Picture of RES Impact
According to the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC), Kansas City Power & Light reported less than a 1% rate increase due to the RES in 2012, and WestarEnergy estimated a rate impact of 1.7%. In a 2013 report (.PDF) to Governor Sam Brownback and members of the state legislature, the Kansas Corporation Commission calculated the rate impact of the RES at about 0.16 cents per kWh of the approximately 9.2 cents per kWh retail electricity cost in 2012 across the state (or less than 2% of the revenue requirement while supplying more than 10% of generation capacity).
Finally, the KCC has submitted an annual report on each utility’s efforts to fulfill RES requirements. As of 2012, five of the six affected utilities had already produced a surplus of clean energy in meeting the requirement.
Fossil Fuel Interests Attack Clean Energy Law For Driving Investment, Jobs in Kansas
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its fossil fuel membership, and affiliated front groups were behind the push to repeal RES in Kansas.
Koch Industries, a major fossil rule conglomerate that has interests in electricity markets through its coal and natural gas interests, pushed for RES repeal in Kansas through the Koch Brothers’ funded group, Americans for Prosperity, and the company’s lobbyists.
Americans for Prosperity Kansas (the astroturf group founded and funded by the Koch Brothers) hosted the Emerging Energy Issues Forum in partnership with Heartland Institute (another fossil fuel-funded front group) and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce in February 2014.
During the event, operatives representing Heartland Institute and others attacked both the RES law in Kansas and solar net metering. Representatives on the panel at the event also cited the Institute for Energy Research’s debunked “Spain green jobs study” (see IER on page 11) to claim that clean energy jobs result in other job losses. Americans for Prosperity has also launched a television advertising campaign, spending at least $300,000 to echo that the RES is causing electricity rate hikes.
Special interests pushing the anti-clean energy bill also created a front group in their effort to repeal the standard. The leader of Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Kansas admitted to contacting the group’s lawyer to set up a new front group, the Kansas Senior Consumer Alliance, after previously denying that there was any connection between AFP and the Senior group. AFP also teamed up with the Heartland Institute and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce to advocate for repeal.
Finally, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which counts many fossil fuel and utility interests as members, also advocated for repeal of the clean energy law. Kansas Chamber of Commerce counts numerous fossil fuel and utility interests as members, in addition to Koch Industries, which could have benefited from repeal of the RES:
- Kansas Gas Service (part of ONE Gas)
- Murfin Drilling Company
- Black Hills Energy
- Westar Energy
- Kansas City Power & Light
- Atmos Energy
- CVR Energy
- National Cooperative Refinery Association
The Chamber was ridiculed by the Red State Renewable Alliance for blaming rising rates on the RES, even though Kansas City Power & Light announced that purchasing 400 MW of wind would lower rates by $600 million over 20 years.
Utility interests and front groups attacking clean energy in Kansas are using disinformation to inflate the costs of clean energy and protect the fossil fuel status quo from competition. Cheap, clean energy poses a threat to the fossil fuel electricity sector, and Kansas’ renewable energy standard has spurred investment in the state’s clean energy economy, driving over $7 billion in investment since 2001. In total, more than 10,000 jobs have been created by the wind industry in Kansas, both directly and indirectly, according to a recent report studying the economic impact of wind energy in the state.
Kansas Net Metering Fight in 2014:
The Kansas Legislature considered taking up anti-solar net metering legislation (HB 2458) pushed by two major utilities: Westar Energy and Kansas City Power & Light. In the end, the legislature adopted a compromise that preserved net metering, handing a defeat to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which sought to eliminate the policy.
The House Energy & Environment Committee originally passed an amended HB 2458 with language that would have made substantive, negative changes to solar net metering if passed by the state legislature. The proposed bill would have calculated any excess credits for electricity generation at the end of each month’s billing cycle and allowed utilities to pay solar customers generating excess electricity less than the retail rate of electricity. Utilities would have then been able to turn around and sell the electricity to customer-generators neighbors at the retail rate, thereby generating revenue for the utility from the customer’s solar investment.
Anti-Solar Bill Pushed Through ALEC-Chaired Committee
The anti-solar bill follows model net metering policy approved during ALEC’s ALEC’s December 2013 meeting in Washington, D.C., where utility members and the utility trade association, Edison Electric Institute (EEI), almost certainly met with legislators to lobby support for anti-solar net metering efforts.
The Chairman of the House Energy & Environment Committee, Dennis Hedke, is a member of ALEC. At least five additional members of the Kansas House Energy Committee are known ALEC members: Representatives Steve Alford, Randy Garber, Charles Macheers, Scott Schwab, and Joe Siewert.
Testifying before the committee, the utility industry said that a less-than-retail rate of compensation would be fair, according to Andy Marso at the Topeka Capital-Journal. The utility aimed to credit customers who generate excess solar electricity at a rate of 150% of each utility’s avoided cost, which would very likely be far less than the retail rate of electricity.
But, Dorothy Barnett, the Executive Director of the Climate and Energy Project in Kansas, said the amended bill would have meant that, “At end of month, excess credits would have no value. Solar power generators would have no “rollover” credits from one month to the next or get paid for excess power generated.”
And, as Andy Marso also reported: Pro-solar advocates at the Vote Solar Initiative say that “customers who produce their own electricity save everyone money by lessening the amount of infrastructure needed within the grid, reducing the amount of electricity lost as it is transmitted over power lines, and preventing pollution.”
An amended version of the bill eventually passed the legislature, protecting net metering and delivering another failure to utility interests and their ALEC allies in the legislature.
Chairman of Committee Tied to Fossil Fuel, Utility Industry
The Chairman of the House Energy & Environment Committee Dennis Hedke has substantial ties to fossil fuel and utility interests that sought to eliminate Kansas’s clean energy policies.
In 2012, Hedke received approximately 20% of his campaign contributions from fossil fuel and utility entities. Hedke received contributions from:
- Koch Industries, a major fossil fuel conglomerate with interests in coal, gas and other fossil fuels
- Sunflower Electric Power Corp., which generates 76% of its electricity from big fossil fuel power plants
- National Cooperative Refinery Association
- Kansas Committee for Rural Electrification, which is funded by electric utility cooperatives
- ONEOK, Inc., one of the largest natural gas distributors in United States
- ANR pipeline, a natural gas pipeline company
- Kansas Chamber of Commerce
Furthermore, Hedke has personal ties to the fossil fuel industry — he’s a “contract geophysicist whose client list includes 30 regional oil and gas companies,” according to a report from the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Zack Pistora, a spokesman for the Kansas Sierra Club said to to the Topeka Capital Journal: “It is clear that Hedke has been influenced heavily by the money involved from his contract work with the oil and gas industry. As a state representative, he needs to put his own financial interests aside and focus instead on doing what’s right for Kansans, our environment, and our future generations.”
Kansas Renewable Energy Standard Fight in 2013:
In Kansas, fossil fuel-funded front groups and Koch Industries also lobbied aggressively in 2013 to eliminate the state’s clean energy law. The Senate Committee on Utilities sponsored SB 82 and had 3 known ALEC members. The House Committee on Energy & Environment sponsored HB 2241 and also had 3 known ALEC members. Lead House sponsor Dennis Hedke is a member of ALEC and also has ties to the Heartland Institute, which promoted a book he authored.
Norquist testified before the Kansas legislature in favor of the rollback bills, as part of his advocacy for repealing renewable energy standards in multiple states around the country. In addition, Chris Horner, from the fossil fuel-funded Competitive Enterprise Institute, testified before the state legislature, citing flawed information from the Institute for Energy Research. Furthermore, Americans for Prosperity worked to generate support for repealing the Kansas’ RES. Heartland Institute’s James Taylor flew into Kansas for an Americans for Prosperity event to undermine the RES law and also testified before the state legislature.
The Beacon Hill Institute published a flawed report with the Kansas Policy Institute, a member of the State Policy Network.
Finally, Koch Companies Public Sector lobbyist Jonathan Small had private talks with Chairman Dennis Hedke about the anti-clean energy bill before it was passed out of committee in 2013.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Maine
Governor Paul LePage pushed over and over to weaken the state’s RES law by allowing existing hydro facilities (from Canada) to receive energy credits, which would effectively eliminate the incentive for clean energy in Maine.
The Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) published an anti-RES report for Maine, which was co-published by the Maine Heritage Policy Center in September 2012.
Subsequently, citing flawed data from the BHI and the Maine Heritage Policy Center, Governor LePage claimed the RES would have a negative impact on the state. In reality, the clean energy law resulted in more than $2 billion in local investment and created at least 2,500 jobs. ALEC’s Maine state private sector chair is Ann Robinson, who was the co-chair of the LePage gubernatorial transition team. ALEC corporate members part of the Private Enterprise Committee also contributed nearly $96,000 to LePage’s election campaign in 2010.
In February 2013, Senator Edward Youngblood and Senator Mike Thibodeau, a member of ALEC, introduced legislation to water down the state’s RES law with existing hydro power. If passed, SP 237 would have removed the 100-megawatt limit on renewable sources of energy. This change would have allowed large hydro facilities (specifically from Canada) to receive energy credits, and as a result, water down Maine’s clean energy law with big, existing hydroelectric power. The incentive for clean energy companies to continue investing in Maine would have been eliminated. Fortunately, SP 237 faced widespread opposition and was not passed as originally written.
According to a report from Maine People’s Alliance, “In 2011, [Senator Mike Thibodeau] received a $350 scholarship, funded by corporate contributions, to travel to an ALEC conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.” Sen. Thibodeau, one of the anti-RES bill’s co-sponsors, has received over $15,000 from ALEC-affiliated organizations and companies. He also has close ties with the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP). Since 2010, Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Maine director and former ALEC state co-chair Carol Weston has served as Sen. Thibodeau’s campaign treasurer. AFP also send out a legislative alert regarding the Maine RES.
Member companies of ALEC, including oil, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies have contributed more than $750,000 to Maine candidates, parties, and political action committees since 2002.
LePage continued his lobbying effort against Maine’s RES in 2014, saying that he wanted to open the door to hydropower from Quebec. Renewable energy advocates pushed back yet again, saying that no other industry has come close to the $2.5 billion investment in infrastructure that’s been made by the clean energy industry in Maine.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Missouri
In Missouri, a bill (HB 44) that would have watered down the state’s renewable energy standard by allowing existing hydroelectric power to be included in the standard failed to pass before the legislature adjourned.
Republican state Rep. Bart Korman filed the bill in late 2012, which would have effectively eliminated incentives to increase renewable energy use in Missouri. The Republican-led Missouri House of Representatives passed HB 44 in February 2013 but the Senate committee never voted on the bill.
Rep. Korman is a dues-paying member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to a 2012 report by Progress Missouri. Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones previously served as a state chairman for the organization.
The Beacon Hill Institute produced a flawed report attacking the Missouri RES.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Montana
In 2013, the Montana Legislature passed a slightly modified version of SB 45 after Governor Steve Bullock returned the original legislation with proposed amendments. The modified legislation makes a minor change to include the increased output of hydropower resulting from upgrades to existing hydro plants in the state’s RES.
Another bill, SB 31, which was sponsored by Montana Senator Debby Barrett, would have included all existing hydropower in the state’s RES. Senator Barrett first introduced the bill in December 2012. Sen. Barrett received a $1584.31 scholarship from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2007 for travel to ALEC events. Gov. Bullock vetoed the bill after it passed both legislative chambers.
The Montana Policy Institute, a member of the State Policy Network, released a flawed Beacon Hill Institute report on the Montana RES that was co-published by the American Tradition Institute.
Attacks on Clean Energy in North Carolina
North Carolina Renewable Energy Standard Fight in 2013:
In North Carolina in 2013, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) member and State Representative Mike Hager was the chief sponsor of a bill attacking the state’s RES. He was joined by at least seven other ALEC members in sponsoring the bill.
Hager’s bill started as a full repeal, but amendments turned it into a RES-weakening bill by freezing RES targets, repealing the solar carve-out, which sets aside part of the standard for solar energy, and allowing existing hydro and energy efficiency to qualify for the renewable energy standard.
Rep. Hager’s bill, HB 298, was voted down 18-13 in the House Committee on Public Utilities and Energy, which he chairs, in a show of bipartisan support for the clean energy law.
Concurrently, the Senate companion bill, SB 365, stalled in another committee after Senator Bill Rabon, the co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, forced the ALEC-backed bill through the Finance Committee without a vote count. Over the protests of dissenting Senators calling for a vote count, Rabon declared that the bill had passed and adjourned the committee.
Rep. Hager promised more attempts to undo RES. He is now appealing to Governor Pat McCrory’s Blue Ribbon Study Commission to alter the renewable energy standard.
Koch Industries-funded Americans for Prosperity spearheaded a letter signed by 16 anti-clean energy groups, many of whom receive funding from fossil fuel interests targeting North Carolina legislators.
The Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) published a flawed report with the John Locke Foundation attacking the North Carolina RES.
Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform also penned an op-ed in Politico that specifically focused on North Carolina and repeated the same flawed economic data from BHI.
North Carolina Net Metering Fight in 2014:
In a meeting with local reporters in January 2014, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good said the utility will push for “reducing how much North Carolina households are paid for generating electricity from solar panels.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) recently released a model resolution calling for the weakening of solar net metering policies that threaten the traditional utility industry business model. ALEC is one front group that the utility industry is using to push for changes to net metering policies—a valuable ally for the utilities to lobby state legislators from across the country. Duke Energy is a member of ALEC.
Good claimed that the company supports solar and wanted it to be a part of its portfolio. In reality, Duke Energy Carolinas generates approximately 57% of its electricity from coal and natural gas plants, another 26% from nuclear power plants, and only .04% from solar.
TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar Won’t Be Killed) launched an advertisement highlighting Duke’s attacks on solar and emphasizing that Good was looking out for Duke’s stock price. The NC Sustainable Energy Association said, “Utilities are attacking net metering and rooftop solar to protect their bottom line and monopoly control, plain and simple.”
Duke Energy serves 3.2 million people in the state of North Carolina, with only 1,300 private homes currently using the net metering policy. As the price of solar continues to drop, more people will install solar and become electricity generators— by gutting the net metering policy now, Duke would hinder the adoption of more solar energy and maintain control of electricity generation in the state.
As of this report’s publication, the North Carolina Utilities Commission is investigating the value of solar to determine the costs of integrating solar into the grid.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Ohio
Ohio Alternative Energy Portfolio and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard Attack in 2014:
Utility and fossil fuel-funded front groups peddled disinformation to attempt a freeze on Ohio’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in 2014. Front groups’ flawed arguments against the AEPS and EERS are not credible evidence to freeze the pro-clean technology laws. As unbiased research reveals, the true impact of Ohio’s clean energy and energy efficiency standards were positive.
The fossil fuel-funded Heartland Institute has been using flawed analysis to inflate the cost of renewable energy standards in states around the country. Heartland Institute’s James Taylor claims that because electricity prices in Ohio have risen slightly faster than the national average since 2008, the state’s clean energy standard is the culprit causing a spike in electricity prices. But Taylor ignores several additional factors that impact electricity prices.
In reality, Ohio uses less natural gas than the national average, which likely impacted the faster rise in electricity prices over the past few years. Since 2009, the low price of natural gas due to the fracking boom in the United States led to a decreased rise in electricity rates around in country—especially in states that use natural gas for electricity generation. The average residential price for natural gas dropped from $12.14 per thousand cubic feet in 2009 to $10.33 per thousand cubic feet in 2013, a decrease of 14.9%. The average price of natural gas for industrial and commercial use also dropped significantly.
In 2010, Ohio used natural gas for only 5% of electricity generated and coal for 82.1%. Nationwide, the electric power industry used natural gas for 23.9% of electricity generated, which explains, in part, why Ohio saw a more dramatic increase in electricity rates than the rest of the country. The low price for natural gas contributed to cheaper electricity prices and states utilizing natural gas for electricity generation saw less of an increase in electricity prices, at least in part because of abundant natural gas.
Furthermore, from 2009–2011, the average cost of coal in dollars per short ton (see Prices back to 1949) increased 7.5% in the United States, much faster than the 3.2% average electricity price increase cited by Taylor. Given that Ohio uses mostly coal for electricity generation, the increased rate in electricity prices is in part due to the cost of coal.
Utilities’ For-Hire Economist Distorts the Facts
Utility industry consultant Jonathan Lesser claimed in testimony in front of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Commission in February that the cost of energy efficiency and renewable energy standards would always be more than the savings. The data don’t support Dr. Lesser’s claims.
Dr. Lesser failed to include important pieces in his testimony. His anti-clean energy and anti-energy efficiency stance may be a result of his close business relationships with interests whose business model directly competes with clean energy and energy efficiency: past clients include major utility and fossil fuel interests like Exelon; Occidental; Duke Energy; and FirstEnergy, which is an outspoken opponent of energy efficiency measures in Ohio.
The Ohio Manufacturers Association (OMA) rebutted Dr. Lesser’s testimony, saying that Dr. Lesser:
- significantly underestimates the price suppression benefits of energy efficiency (i.e., factors that drive down the cost of power), arguing incorrectly that customers will save no more than 37 cents on their monthly electric bills.
- completely ignores the direct benefits of reduced energy consumption and avoided energy purchases (i.e., savings resulting from using less electricity).
- argues that the energy efficiency program costs will continue to rise over time – completely ignoring the many downward pressures on program costs.
OMA concludes that Ohio’s anti-energy efficiency and clean energy standard bill is “a huge giveaway to electric utility companies.”
Reports show benefits of programs to ratepayers
According to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) helps utilities reduce customer demand, thereby lowering wholesale energy prices and saving ratepayers money. The study shows that implementing the standard would save consumers in Ohio nearly $5.6 billion in avoided energy costs, far exceeding the cost for utilities ($2.8 billion) to implement the program.
The Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) studied the impact of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard in an effort to quantify how adding renewable energy to the grid would affect electricity markets in the state. The PUC concluded that renewable resources like wind and solar helped to produce “lower wholesale market clearing prices” as a result of the free fuel costs for clean energy generation.
The PUC studied two scenarios: first, looking at renewable energy projects that are already in operation and second, looking at proposed projects that have already received a green light from the Ohio Power Siting Board, which regulates new energy and transmission infrastructure. The Ohio PUC study found that in the first scenario, renewable energy capacity reduced prices by between .12% and .16%. In the second scenario, renewable energy additions reduced prices by between .47% and .52%. In total, the Ohio PUC study estimated that the overall savings for 2014 would be approximately $8 million in scenario one and $28 million in scenario two. The study concludes, “Ohioans are already benefiting from renewable resource additions through downward pressure on wholesale market prices and reduced emissions.”
As Midwest Energy News reported: “The wholesale cost of power accounts for, very roughly, about two-thirds of a customer’s bill,” said [Tim] Benedict, the report’s author and an economist for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. “The remainder of the bill, which likely would not be affected by the addition of renewables, reflects administration, capital investment and other costs.”
Utility and fossil fuel interests, with help from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), spread anti-clean energy disinformation in an attempt to eliminate cleantech policies. However, both a third party study and a study by the PUC contradict the disinformation being pushed by the Heartland Institute and Lesser.
These special interests want to stop cleantech policies in an effort to sell as much dirty energy as possible—no matter what the cost to ratepayers. As of report publication, a bill seeking to freeze the AEPS and EERS is still pending before the Ohio legislature.
Ohio Renewable Energy Standard Fight in 2013:
Senator Bill Seitz (ALEC Board member, Civil Justice Task Force co-chair) sponsored an attack on Ohio’s clean energy and energy efficiency law in 2013.
An early version of SB 58 would have weakened the state’s renewable energy standard (RES) by incorporating Canadian hydropower and eliminating a requirement for 50% of RES sources to come from within Ohio’s borders. The language in SB 58 was the first iteration of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) second round of anti-RES bills, the Renewable Energy Credit Act & the Market Power Renewables Act
ALEC’s second round of model bills are a “stealth attack” on RES. The bill (and SB 58) is framed to appear as pro-clean-energy, but in reality, would allow electricity sources like hydropower and landfill gas to be included in the standard.
Senator Seitz’s bill would have been a windfall for ALEC’s corporate members in the utility industry. In particular, SB 58 would have significantly benefit two out-of-state ALEC utility members by allowing hydroelectric power plants and cogeneration plants to count toward the clean energy standard. Those members, TransCanada and Ameren, operate facilities that could have qualified for the RES if Seitz’s bill became law. TransCanada has numerous cogeneration and hydroelectric plants, and Ameren owns three hydroelectric facilities in Missouri. Both TransCanada and Ameren sponsored ALEC’s 40th Annual Meeting, and while precise sponsorship rates are not known, sponsorship cost likely thousands of dollars, and as much as $100k.
Seitz’s proposed changes to the state’s energy efficiency standards would have generated profits for ALEC’s Ohio utility interests, including Duke Energy and American Electric Power (AEP), at the expense of consumers. These two ALEC utility interests would have benefited from the guaranteed 33% profit on all energy efficiency programs and the expanded definition of qualifying energy efficiency projects. As reported by Midwest Energy News, “Ohio consumers already pay for energy efficiency programs through a rider on their monthly electric bills. Under current law, programs must save customers more than they cost, and customers benefit from all savings until the law’s targets are met. Small incentives let utilities share in additional savings beyond those targets.” But Sen. Seitz’s bill would have given utilities a handout in the form of 33% guaranteed profits on all energy efficiency programs – money that comes straight from consumers. In addition, utilities would have been allowed to keep these profits (one-third of after-tax benefits) until the targets are met but eliminate any incentive to do more than the law requires. Scott Gerfen of Ohio’s Consumers’ Counsel said, “The bill turns energy efficiency, which is supposed to be about saving money for consumers, into a profit center for AEP, DP&L, Duke Energy, and FirstEnergy. And, the bill takes away from customers some of the key benefits they’re now receiving from energy efficiency.”
ALEC Senator Kris Jordan (a member of ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force) introduced another bill in 2013, SB 34, which would have completely repealed the RES, but the bill did not move in the legislature.
The Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) and American Tradition Institute co-authored a flawed report calling for RES repeal. Heartland Institute’s James Taylor and Institute for Energy Research’s Daniel Simmons both flew into Ohio to testify in favor of repealing the RES in March 2013 and George Taylor, a Senior Fellow at E&E Legal, also provided testimony to the Ohio State Senate regarding the anti-clean energy bill SB58. Simmons recycled the debunked “Spanish jobs study” for his testimony to support his arguments against the RES.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Oklahoma
The Oklahoma legislature passed a bill (SB 1456) that would allow utility companies to charge customers who install solar (or small wind turbines) an additional fee. The bill was signed into law in April 2014 by Governor Mary Fallin.
The bill was co-sponsored by ALEC member AJ Griffin. The Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity ran television ads in Oklahoma, and utilities in the state, Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. and Public Service Company of Oklahoma, advocated in favor of the bill.
Shortly after signing the bill, Gov. Fallin issued an executive order that may moderate the effect of the bill, saying the bill “does not mandate tariffs or other increases for distributed generation customers.” The executive order provided guidance to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission as they consider making changes to the state’s solar energy policies and encouraged that all state agencies should promote “wind and solar power as important forms of clean energy.”
Attacks on Clean Energy in Oregon
The Oregon legislature adjourned in July 2013 without taking up a measure that would have weakened the state’s renewable energy energy standard. SB 121, sponsored by Senator Alan Olsen and Senator Chuck Thomsen (both elected 2010), would have allowed the use of large-scale, existing hydroelectric power to qualify for the RES, thereby watering down the requirement to increase the use of clean energy in the state. The bill was stalled in the Environment and Natural Resources Committee when the legislature adjourned.
Oregon’s RES has faced multiple attacks in the past. In 2013, Representative Greg Smith co-sponsored a bill with at least 6 known ALEC members (Representatives Katie Eyre Brewer, Bruce Hanna, Mark Johnson, Mike McLane, Matt Wingard, and Matt Wand) to allow all hydroelectric power to be included in RES.
With the anti-RES bill stopped, Paul Cosgrove, a utility lobbyist (representing the Umatilla Electric Cooperative) and ALEC’s Oregon private sector co-chair, spearheaded a ballot initiative that would also water down Oregon’s RES by including hydroelectric power.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania in 2013, at least five ALEC members co-sponsored HB1062 (Representatives Matthew Baker, Seth Grove, Glen Grell, Dick Hess, and Matt Gabler) which was an attempt to include natural gas in the RES. The bill was referred to the Consumer Affairs Committee and did not move before the end of the legislative session.
The bill was also referred to the Consumer Affairs Committee and did not move before the end of the legislative session.
Finally, ALEC members co-sponsored HB1151 (Rep. Stan Saylor, Rep. Robert Godshall, and Rep. Seth Grove), which would add waste to energy facilities to the Tier I designations for the RES. The bill was referred to the Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and did not move before the end of the legislative session.
The Beacon Hill Institute published a report in December 2012, attacking the state’s RES using flawed economic data, and was cited by the State Policy Network’s National Center for Policy Analysis, the American Tradition Institute, Commonwealth Foundation, and the fossil fuel-funded Heartland Institute.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Texas
In 2013, Representative Scott Sanford and Representative Jonathan Stickland co-sponsored HB 2026 in an effort to eliminate the RES and strip the Public Utilities Commission of its authority to regulate trading of renewable energy credits. The bill was left pending in committee when the legislature adjourned in March 2013.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation, part of the State Policy Network, produced numerous reports and attacked the state RES. Merrill Matthews from the Institute for Policy Innovation (another State Policy Network member, funded by ALEC, the Koch brothers, and ExxonMobil) wrote a column claiming that consumers are being hammered by alternative energy and efficiency programs despite the fact that a U.S. Energy Information Association study showed that state-level renewable energy standards have virtually zero statistically significant impact on how electric rates changed from 2000 to 2010.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Utah
In Utah, utility interest Rocky Mountain Power attempted to amend an existing bill to include an assault on net metering in the state.
Senator Curtis Bramble, a former Board member and ALEC legislator of the year, co-sponsored the bill and spoke about the effort at ALEC’s meeting in Kansas City in May 2014.
After pushback from solar industry groups and other advocates, the bill, SB 208, was changed to a study bill that would look at the value of distributed solar to the grid, instead of gutting the net metering policy. But, the amended bill allowed the utility to propose additional charges for solar customers to the public utilities commission.
It was passed through the both chambers of the state legislature and was signed by Governor Gary Herbert.
Rocky Mountain Power recently included a “Net Metering Facilities Charge” of $4.25 per month in a rate case before the Utah Public Service Commission (PSC). At the time of publication, the PSC had not yet considered the proposal to charge solar customers the monthly fee.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Washington
Washington Renewable Energy Standard Fight in 2014:
In 2014 in Washington, there was at least one ALEC-tied attempt to weaken state’s renewable energy standard.
SB 6058, which would have allowed hydropower upgrades to be included in the renewable energy standard, was sponsored by at least three ALEC members: Senator Barbara Bailey, Senator Randi Becker, and Senator Don Benton (who also serves as ALEC’s State Chairman in Washington).
The bill was passed by the State Senate, but when brought before the State House of Representatives, was returned to the Senate Rules Committee.
Washington Utility Protectionism and the Net Metering Fight in 2014:
In Washington, utility interests pushed a protectionist, anti-free market bill in an effort to safeguard the monopolistic control of electricity generation by a handful of utilities.
The bill, HB 2176, stated that “if an electric utility offers a leased energy program, no other entity may offer leases to the utility’s customers.” If it had passed, HB 2176 would have given utilities monopoly control of the distributed solar market. Currently, no solar leases are allowed in the state of Washington, despite the fact that this financing mechanism accounts for approximately 60% of residential systems in top solar states like California and Arizona, because it allows homeowners to install solar panels with little or no upfront capital cost.
Instead of trying to eliminate net metering, utilities in Washington sought to monopolize the ability to lease solar systems to homeowners—allowing them to set the price for solar and protect their balance sheets.
The effort failed to generate momentum and died in committee.
Utilities and the oil and gas industry spent more than $800,000 combined on state elections in the 2012 election cycle, with PacifiCorp contributing over $200,000 and Puget Sound Energy over $100,000.
PacifiCorp is also a member of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), which worked with ALEC on the model resolution to weaken net metering policies. Puget Sound Energy, another utility that could benefit from the passage of HB 2176, is also a member of EEI. EEI unsuccessfully spent $520,000 in a 10-day television advertising campaign against net metering gut net metering policy in Arizona in 2013.
PacifiCorp currently generates 79% of its electricity from coal and natural gas with over 120,000 customers in Washington. Puget Sound Energy generates 48% of its electricity from coal and natural gas with 1.1 million customers in Washington.
Washington Renewable Energy Standard Fight in 2013:
In 2013 in Washington, five of seven sponsors of SB 5431, which would have allowed hydropower to be eligible for the RES, are ALEC members, including ALEC’s State Chairman and Senator Don Benton, Senator Doug Ericksene, Senator Barbara Bailey, Senator Mike Carrell, and Senator Mike Padden. The bill did not move forward before the legislature adjourned in April 2013.
Washington State has seen at least ten previous bills, according the Greentech Media, which would have allowed existing hydroelectric power to count towards the state’s RES and flooded out new clean energy sources.
The Washington Policy Center, a member of the State Policy Network co-published a Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) report using flawed economic data. The study was written about in the Business Examiner, the Washington State Wire, and the National Center for Policy Analysis, another State Policy Network group.
Attacks on Clean Energy in West Virginia
In West Virginia, ALEC’s State Chairman Delegate Eric Householder co-sponsored HB 2609 to repeal the Alternative and Renewable Energy Portfolio Act. The bill was stuck in committee when the legislature adjourned in April 2013.
Former director of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture (EEA) Task Force, Todd Wynn, mentioned RES repeal attempts in West Virginia in an interview with Greenwire.
Attacks on Clean Energy in Wisconsin
Five ALEC members (Senator Glenn Grothman, Representative Dan LeMahieu, Representative Stephen Nass, Representative Michael Schraa, and Representative Tom Larson) sponsored SB 47, which would eliminate the state RES by freezing it at 2011 levels.
Another anti-RES bill, AB 34, would have allowed utilities to meet the renewable energy standards with nuclear energy and eliminated the 4-year time period for using credits to comply with such standards.
Four of the 10 sponsors of AB 34 were members of ALEC: Representatives Andre Jacque, Daniel LeMahieu, Jeffrey Stone, and Michael Schraa.
Sen. Grothman was profiled by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) for his attacks on RES (and his attacks on Kwanzaa). CMD’s Brendan Fischer predicted the attack in Wisconsin: “…once the ALEC-inspired bill is introduced, the right-wing infrastructure will spring into action. Beacon Hill will publish a study claiming that Wisconsin’s renewable standards lead to higher energy costs (perhaps commissioned by one of the State Policy Network affiliates in the state, such as the MacIver Institute or the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute).”
Wisconsin Policy Research Institute published a flawed Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) report just days after CMD’s post. And, an op-ed by one of the report’s authors, BHI’s Paul Bachman, amplified the report but was rebutted by local clean energy advocate, Michael Vickman, Policy Director of RENEW Wisconsin.