Editor's note: The following is a guest post from Bryan Miller, senior vice president of public policy & markets at solar installer Sunrun and president of The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), a solar advocacy group. If you or one of your colleagues is interested in submitting a viewpoint article, please review these guidelines.
It’s the time of the presidential campaign cycle where some of the dirtiest political tricks in the country are covered daily in the news. But this type of campaigning isn’t limited to the presidential race. Some utilities across the country have been using similar tactics for years in their attempts to eliminate rooftop solar competition. A few of their startling tactics:
Ads gone wild
In Arizona, a political group supported by APS ran attack ads in 2013 suggesting that net metering prevents parents from affording toys for their children. Another ad from the same group compared rooftop solar companies to middle-aged men stealing ice cream sprinkles from children. And after a candidate for state treasurer spoke in support of solar, an APS-supported dark money group attacked him on unrelated issues in 2014.
National utility expert Ashley Brown recently compared objections from TASC, the leading rooftop solar advocacy organization, to a "son who kills his parents and throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.” Brown’s institution, the Harvard Electricity Policy Group, receives funding from major utilities across the country.
Last year, a minister in North Carolina released an open letter to Duke's CEO criticizing the utility for its efforts to pit minorities against rooftop solar. It read:
I (Rev. Nelson Johnson) have been visited in recent months by three different individuals selling Duke's "solar power hurts the poor" message...it appears evident that this "solar hurts the poor" strategy has been coordinated by Duke and its cohorts in the corporate electric power industry and used in many states recently. Fortunately, the scheme has been rejected by the NAACP's national board, by various state NAACP chapters, and by the Congressional Black Caucus, among others.
An investigative report recently found that the blog Politic365, which has published numerous posts critical of solar net metering — saying in one post that it has a “negative impact on African Americans” —is actually maintained by a consulting firm that serves the utility industry.
I signed what?
A year and a half ago in Wisconsin, a fossil fuel industry group filed a petition in support of crippling solar fees with the alleged support of 2,500 Wisconsinites. After countless “signers” said the group misrepresented their beliefs and falsified the filing, the Commission struck all 2,500 signatures from the record.
Grandma got run over by solar
In Florida, utilities released an ad last year claiming that rooftop solar preys on old people and African Americans.
The human toll
While some of these tactics might pass for political entertainment, the human toll is all too real. Just days before Christmas, Nevada utilities succeeded in eliminating the rooftop solar industry in that state. The result was layoffs throughout the state, families selling homes and children being pulled out of schools — and all in a state that already has the third-highest unemployment rate in the nation.
The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) is proud to help these families bring their voice to this debate about our common energy future. In the face of overwhelming monopoly spending, it is critical for policy makers to hear from the people most impacted by their decisions.
We know that it’s the season for hardball politics. But power in politics comes from two places — money and people. TASC is proud to help bring people to the debate.