Back in November, I wrote about how the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was partnering up with the Heartland Institute to attack renewable energy standards across 29 states. As an organization propped up by the fossil fuel industry, this behavior comes as no surprise. But the sneaky way they are trying to undue laws that encourage solar, wind and other renewable energy sources needs to be exposed and citizens of these states must stand up to the corporate interests desperately holding onto their power to pollute. Across the country, we are watching ALEC and industry allies try to unravel decades of progressive energy legislation.
In the sunny southwest, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) has eliminated the performance-based incentives (PBIs) provided to commercial solar energy customers by the state’s two investor-owned utilities (IOUs). It also drastically reduced the upfront incentives (UFIs) provided by the IOUs to residential solar energy customers. SolarCity Governmental Affairs Director Meghan Nutting explained that “as the Arizona incentives have been slowly reduced, the industry has kept up. Ratepayers have invested in the industry to a point where we are almost without a need for incentives. But a sudden and complete elimination of all incentives that cuts the commercial solar industry off at the knees means we will have to start over.” The ACC decision, she added, means “people are going to lose their jobs in the sunniest state in the country in an industry that Arizona has depended on through the recession and should dominate.” The ACC commissioners’ rationale for the cuts was that they will reduce the Renewable Energy Standard and Tariff (REST) premium added to Arizona ratepayers’ utility bills to fund solar. The REST premium was established by the ACC in 2007 and is capped at $4.00 per month. Calculations by Arizona solar advocates concluded that the PBI cuts will save APS ratepayers no more than $0.02 to $0.06 per month.
And in Texas, Republican State Rep. Scott Sanford filed House Bill 2026, which would eliminate Texas’ RPS, requiring 5,880 MW of renewable energy by 2015, a target that Texas has already reached. Sanford’s bill would effectively eliminate Texas’ wind energy standards, which leads the nation in wind power and provides, along with solar, 6,000 jobs per year. Over 1,300 Texas companies employ nearly 100,000 workers in industries directly and indirectly related to renewable energy. The bill would also strip the Public Utility Commission of the authority to oversee the $82 million market in which credits for renewable energy are traded. Claiming that “allowing natural gas, coal, wind and all forms of energy to compete on a level playing field will allow the cheapest, most efficient, and cleanest form of energy to prevail,” Sanford pretends that the playing field is level. Sanford gives the same tired party line that “governments cannot pick winners and losers in our global economy.”
Well, since 1918 the government has been picking fossil fuels as winners by subsidizing them with tens of billions of dollars while externalizing the costs of pollution to the American people and the planet. So we are in effect being taxed multiple times. Since these same companies also make billions in profits, it seems that a good leveling would be to start with repealing oil and gas subsidies. According to the Texas Observer, a cynic might wonder when Sanford will file legislation to repeal the high-cost natural gas tax exemption, which allows natural gas companies to take advantage of a tax break passed in 1989 before anyone dreamed of tapping the Eagle Ford or Barnett Shale. It costs the state taxpayers over $1 billion every year. But then you would have to scratch the surface and see that Sanford, like his counterparts in other states, are supporters for ALEC and the fossil industry, not the free market purists they pretend to be. Pundits like Grover Norquist who imply that renewable energy is costing ratepayers more when, in reality, the data shows that the presence of a state-level renewable energy standard has virtually zero statistically-significant impact on how much electric rates changed from 2000 to 2010.
We hope that you will pledge to contact your elected leaders and tell them you are part of the majority who believe that renewable energy is a national security investment and the future for a strong American economy and healthier planet.
EDF has created an action alert to help concerned citizens stand up for a clean, low-carbon energy future and have their voices heard, please add your name and tell ALEC “hands off state renewable portfolio standards!”