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How regulators and legislators make it harder for you to use solar power

Lucas Mearian | Feb. 25, 2015
Legislative efforts to squelch net metering abound

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a nonprofit science advocacy organization, believes pressure on legislators to reduce the benefits consumers reap from renewable energy are being led by a small number of industry-supported lobbying groups.

The results of lobbying efforts have been a mixed bag. In certain states, fossil fuel and utility lobbyists have had little effect, but in states such as Kansas, there have been efforts to roll back renewable energy standards for the past two years.

"In Kansas, it was very much the Koch Brothers group Americans for Prosperity that was driving the charge in the state legislature," said Dave Anderson, s spokesman for the UCS.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a conservative lobbying group started by David Koch and Richard Fink (a member of the board of directors of Koch Industries), produces policy papers each year and delivers them to congressional offices.

Americans for Prosperity did not return a request for comment by Computerworld.

Other fossil-fuel lobbying groups who've been behind efforts to eliminate or reduce incentives for deploying distributed solar power say current policies are not fair.

John Eick, the director of the Task Force on Energy at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), pointed out that utilities build and maintain the electrical grid over which all power is transferred, so solar installations should be charged a fee to help pay for that.

Why should consumers get a free ride?
"They're essentially using services for which they don't pay," Eick said.

ALEC, a nonprofit organization made up of conservative state legislators and private sector representatives, drafts model legislation that states can then use to create laws. The group sponsored at least 77 energy bills in 34 states last year that opposed renewable energy standards while pushing oil projects, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, according to the Centre for Media and Democracy (CMD).

CMD is a nonprofit, liberal watchdog group based in Wisconsin. Last year, CMD said it uncovered an ALEC spreadsheet tracking 131 state bills that would eliminate state renewable energy standards, bump up charges to U.S. households with solar, promote the Keystone XL pipeline, push back on proposed EPA coal regulations, and create industry-friendly fracking rules.

"ALEC's colorful spreadsheet provides insight into the lobbying agenda it pushed in the 2014 legislative sessions in states across the country," CMD stated.

Not necessarily a conservative or liberal agenda
While some might split the struggle involving renewable energy down conservative or liberal ideological lines, Rogers said that's not really the case.

For example, the Green Tea Coalition is a conservative movement based in Georgia whose stated goal is to promote environmentalism and seek common ground across the political spectrum to empower consumers with choice.


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