The Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE) is an anti-clean energy front group that often advocates for the positions of fossil fuel and utility interests, while claiming to care about ordinary consumers. PACE was incorporated by William D. Lineberry, an attorney with the Birmingham, AL office of Balch & Bingham, a firm that lobbies on behalf of Southern Company and its Alabama Power subsidiary.
PACE is funded by dark money groups Partnership for Alabama Leadership (PAL) and Vote Alabama (Vote AL), which are connected to Alabama Power through Matrix, LLC, an opposition research and lobbying firm that has provided political consulting services to Alabama Power for decades. The head of PAL, Mike Fields, is on retainer as a consultant to Alabama Power, being paid between $10,000 and $50,000 annually for several years.
PACE is also directly linked to Matrix, with Matrix paying then-PACE Director Lance Brown’s salary in 2009 and 2010 while he was already serving in his role at PACE. And, Matrix employees provided services to PACE.
PACE has received the majority of its funding from the two groups listed above.
PACE is also an “official partner” with the Consumer Energy Alliance, a fossil fuel-funded advocacy group that recently attacked solar energy in Wisconsin by spreading misinformation and actually tricking citizens into signing anti-solar petitions. CEA is also known to have funding and connections to oil and gas lobbying firm HBW Resources. PACE also co-hosted the Gulf Coast energy forum in partnership with CEA to attack EPA clean air regulations on coal-fired power plants. Finally, PACE has promoted and hosted commentary by CEA on the benefits of fracking in Florida.
In addition to CEA, PACE lists the following fossil fuel interests as official partners:
• Alabama Rural Electric Association of Cooperatives
• Tennessee Mining Association
• The National Federation of Independent Business
• IBEW System Council U-19, which represents 3,000 Alabama Power employees and is one of the largest member unions of the state AFL-CIO, another PACE partner.
According to the Center for Media & Democracy’s Sourcewatch, PACE is also part of the Working People for Fair Energy (WPFE), another 501(c)(4) group that describes itself as “a non-profit organization devoted to fighting for energy laws that are fair and affordable to working people and low-income families.”
While appearing to be a group dedicated to environmental justice and working families, a Facing South Investigation found that WPFE has close ties to industry interests with a financial stake in fighting EPA coal ash regulations. In 2010, Steele testified against coal ash regulation at a North Carolina hearing on the issue, claiming that the costs would disproportionately burden the most economically vulnerable Americans. The research cited by Steele in his account of his EPA testimony came from a group called the Affordable Power Alliance (APA), an organization that supports anti-environmental initiatives such as expanded oil drilling and accepts money from ExxonMobil.
This year, PACE has been a primary player in anti-solar campaigns in the southeast. In March, Lance Brown wrote an op-ed in The Hill repeating the utility industry’s claim that solar hurts low-income customers, citing a flawed Louisiana study on the cost of net metering by a fossil fuel industry consultant, David Dismukes of Acadian Consulting Group.
Politifact dug into the claims made by Dismukes and front groups echoing his report and stated:
[Americans for Prosperity] Florida told us that’s really the place that saw higher electric rates because of solar policies. They cited a 2015 study for the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which was debating what to charge solar power customers for electricity. The report focused on the state’s 50 percent tax credit for installing new solar panels, and said those credits cost the state at least $89 million. Louisiana customers outside of New Orleans did see a base rate hike in 2014, which cost the average ratepayer about 47 cents per month. But that increase was approved by the PSC in 2013 and was over several issues, including the cost of maintaining an aging power grid. Electric utility company Entergy did not specifically mention solar as being an issue when announcing the base rate change… So while Louisiana did see a rate increase, we don’t see evidence that it was specifically related to a solar initiative.”
Sierra Club exposed severe flaws in the Dismukes’ report that PACE used to attack solar energy, stating that the LPSC study written by Acadian.
Brown also cited Ashley Brown in the op-ed. Ashley Brown is a utility-backed pundit at the Harvard Electricity Policy Group, who wrote a “paper” in Electricity Journal that contained little quantitative analysis behind her claims.
PACE advocated that Mississippi should be cautious in adopting solar net metering policies, claiming solar customers are pulling subsidies from other ratepayers, despite independent studies showing distributed solar benefiting all ratepayers.
In Georgia, Lance Brown has appeared at rallies supporting Americans for Prosperity’s (AFP) positions against the EPA and solar energy. AFP’s erroneous claims about solar in Florida earned a “pants on fire” rating from Politifact. PACE also signed onto a letter spearheaded by AFP to the North Carolina state legislature calling for the repeal of the state’s RES law.
And finally, in an effort to speak to African American communities, PACE paid more than $100,000 in each of its first two years to Southern Christian Leadership Conference leader Charles Steele, who then appeared at rate hearings and in videos created by the organization speaking in favor of positions favored by Alabama Power.