The rapid growth and emergence of solar energy in the electricity market along with net metering policies have caused investor-owned utility companies and their trade association, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), to create a strategic campaign to prevent distributed rooftop solar energy from gaining more share of the market.
Documents presented to the EEI Board of Directors in 2012 show the detailed plan to convince regulators, lawmakers, and consumers that distributed rooftop solar is unfair to other ratepayers. EEI and utilities want to squash the solar energy market and continue their entrenchment of the energy monopoly. In fact, the presentation EEI gave to the utility company representatives in the room frames their plan with the question, “How do you grow earnings in this environment?”
Read our commentary on EEI’s campaign here or click on the images above to view the documents.
Critical Consumer Issues Forum
Created in 2010, the Critical Consumer Issues Forum (CCIF) brings together state commissioners, consumer advocates, and the electric utility representatives together to tackle consumer-focused energy issues through discussions and debates. David Owens is part of CCIF’s leadership as one of three members on the executive committee.
In late 2012, CCIF leadership identified the topic of distributed energy resources and net metering as an important topic for discussion among the three core groups. CCIF kicked off an initiative on distributed energy resources in November 2012 with a program to examine benefits and challenges of distributed energy resources.
In July 2013, CCIF issued a report, “Policy Considerations Related to Distributed Energy Resources” as a compilation of the meeting. In the report, CCIF calls for a reevaluation of distributed energy resource policies in states, and recommends that any costs imposed on utilities should be borne by those who cause the costs.
The Public Utility Institute
In addition to working with the CCIF, EEI and utility companies have worked to influence regulators at several institutes housed at public universities in the United States. These institutions have a mission to educate new and existing utility regulators. However, some of these institutes serve as an avenue for utility representatives to interact with regulators and educators to advance their position on regulators issues.
The Public Utility Institute (PUI) at the University of Wisconsin serves as one of these avenues of influence.
The Edison Electric Institute hosts a rate course at the PUI that features a reoccurring cast of influencers: Eric Ackerman (EEI); John Caldwell (EEI); Larry Vogt (Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company); and Mark Lowry (Pacific Economics Group, which has several utility companies attacking net metering as clients: Arizona Public Service, Duke Energy, and Xcel Energy).
Topics at EEI’s rate course have included, “Rate Design for Distributed Energy” and “Energy Efficiency and Renewables.”
In November 2014, the Wisconsin Public Service Commission voted to increase fixed charges on electric bills for We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service Company, and Madison Gas & Electric.
Commissioner Phil Montgomery, who voted in favor of the fixed rate, was a Board Director for the PUI, a Board Director for the American Legislative Exchange Council, and a participant in the CCIF distributed energy summit.
Executive Assistant to Montgomery, RJ Pirlot, is a current member of the PUI board.
Recently, Gov. Scott Walker moved Mike Huebsch to the PSC. Huebsch is a former state chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council, and formerly served on ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. Huebsch joins Montgomery and Commissioner Ellen Nowak.
In 2012, the Edison Electric Institute made a plan to partner with key stakeholders and educate lawmakers at the state level on net metering and distributed energy. By lobbying legislators through groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, EEI and utility companies have pressured law makers to weaken solar net metering policies across the country.
American Legislative Exchange Council
One year after Owens’ presentation to the board, Todd Wynn, the former director of the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force at ALEC, began working at EEI as Director of External Affairs.
In January 2014, the ALEC Board of Directors adopted model legislation attacking net metering, which EEI’s Vice President for Political and External Affairs, Brian McCormick “worked on.” The model legislation was sent to ALEC’s network of 2,000 state legislators, and it was introduced in several states. However, several states fought back against EEI and ALEC. Kansas, Utah, and Washington defeated anti-solar bills.
After receiving $10,000 from EEI in 2008, ALEC did not receive any more contributions from EEI until 2012 – when it received $20,000. And according to the latest 990 in 2013, ALEC received $39,667 from EEI.
National Black Caucus of State Legislators
In addition to working with ALEC, EEI began to work with the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) and the National Policy Alliance, which represents the Congressional Black Caucus as well as some 10,000 black lawmakers in all levels of government.
According to the most recent 990 in 2013, EEI gave $10,000 to the NBCSL, which is the required amount listed on the organization’s website to become a private sector member.
The NBCSL has produced two documents relating to net metering: a model resolution aimed at net metering sponsored by Florida State Rep. Joseph Gibbons; 2014 white paper recommending policymaker reform distributed generation policies such as net metering.
In addition to working with lawmakers and regulators, EEI made a plan to influence public opinion and specific constituencies over net metering and distributed energy.
The Edison Electric Institute has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to these organizations as part of their “Action Plan” to weaken solar net metering policies:
- American Association of Blacks in Energy – $95,000
- In December 2014, EEI’s David Owens participated in a webinar hosted by the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE). Joining Owens was Rep. Joe Gibbons of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, and David Wright. Wright also participated in the CCIF distributed energy summit, and the American Legislative Exchange Council’s 2014 Summer meeting in Dallas. Owens, Gibbons, and Wright all called for distributed energy policies to be reformed.
- Presentation on net metering
- American Legislative Exchange Council – $69,667
- Congressional Black Caucus – $120,400
- EEI’s David Owens held a briefing for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in 2014. A staffer for the CBC said EEI was the facilitator for the event and in charge of inviting speakers. Owens invited Sheri Givens, a consultant for Givens Consulting LLC, and Rep. Joe Gibbons. Sheri Givens also participated in the CCIF distributed energy summit, and is a member of the Center for Public Utilities at New Mexico State University.
- Meeting with Edison Electric Institute
- National Black Caucus of State Legislators – $10,000
- National Policy Alliance – $17,500
- The National Policy Alliance includes the leadership of Blacks in Government, National Association of Black County Officials, The National Bar, National Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials, National Black Caucus of School Board Members, National Black Caucus of State Legislators, National Conference of Black Mayors, and the World Conference of Mayors. In 2014, the National Policy Alliance adopted a resolution attacking net metering.
- Model resolution on net metering
- National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women – $15,000
- In June 2014, the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women approved a model resolution attacking net metering. The resolution is titled, “Urging Equitable Distribution of Electricity Grid System Costs” and was introduced by Florida state representative Mia L. Jones.
- Model resolution on net metering
- U.S. Chamber of Commerce – $75,050
The Edison Electric Institute has also hired Edelman, one of the world’s largest public relations companies. Edelman was in the news last year for their ambivalent stance on representing companies that deny climate change, and for having strategy documents leaked to the press regarding how they would help TransCanada Corporation run a “perpetual campaign” to build the Energy East Pipeline – the alternative project to the Keystone XL pipeline.