AUSTIN –Along with the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Consumer Energy Alliance is one of 12 special interest group running the most aggressive anti-solar campaigns in the country, said a new report by Environment Texas Research & Policy Center.
In 2014 the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), a Houston based front group for the fossil fuel industry, submitted questionable petition signatures to the Wisconsin utility board in favor of a utility’s proposal to impose new costs on Wisconsin solar owners. A Capital Times reporter was suspicious that 2,500 customers would sign a petition in support of a rate hike and upon tracking down signers, he found that CEA had either tricked people into signing or made up their support. Ultimately the petitions were thrown out of the rate case, and the utility behind the proposal, We Energies, denied any involvement.
“We found that most attacks on solar energy happen behind closed doors in utility agencies, or in dense regulatory filings -- away from public view," said Gideon Weissman of the Frontier Group, co-author of the report. “That’s probably because they’re aimed at very popular policies that give regular consumers the chance to go solar.”
In the last two years alone, Texas’s solar energy capacity has grown 130%, generating increasing amounts of clean energy at increasingly affordable prices. The state’s solar boom is largely the result of technological advances that has created a strong solar industry while putting solar energy within the financial reach of more and more homes, businesses, and communities.
But, amid Texas’ solar success, the utility El Paso Electric has been working behind the scenes to penalize people for going solar by adding an additional monthly surcharge for costumers with solar that proposes to increase the average solar residential bill by 24%.
“El Paso Electric has been working in the shadows to undermine solar power here in Texas,” said Anne Clark, campaign organizer with Environment Texas, “And our report shows they’re following a similar playbook used by polluters and their allies across the country.”
As the report documents, the Salt River Project, which serves the Phoenix metropolitan area, devastated the growth of distributed solar in its territory by imposing a discriminatory rate hike that costs the average new residential solar customer $50 dollars per month, about 30% more than the typical non solar customers bill. And in the six months following the new charge, the Salt River Project received only 86 applications for new solar installations, after receiving hundreds per month before the charge.
“By wide margins, Texans support solar energy,” said Clark, “That’s why El Paso Electric has resorted to shady tactics to undermine them. Now it’s up to our leaders in El Paso and across the state to stop these attacks and support a clean energy future.”
Environment Texas Research & Policy Center is a statewide advocacy organization bringing people together for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. www.EnvironmentTexasCenter.org