The ‘Kochtopus’ attack on solar energy


Earlier this year I posted about ‘Kochtopus’ dark money and Arizona solar energy:

The Arizona Republic reported this week, APS, solar companies clash over credits to customers:

solarAPS recently acknowledged to The Arizona Republic that it provided money to a Washington, D.C.-based conservative organization called 60 Plus, which focuses on seniors’ issues such as taxes, Social Security and Medicare.

It also gave money to another non-profit called Prosper, which was launched this year by Republican Kirk Adams, a former Arizona House speaker.

The non-profits have supported APS’ position in websites, online videos and television advertisements.

John Hatfield, APS vice president of communications, said the utility is contributing money to the non-profits, and potentially other groups, through political consultant Sean Noble and his firm, DC London.

“We needed to respond to these ridiculous assertions that we do not support solar,” Hatfield said, adding that APS does not agree with all political positions at 60 Plus and Prosper.

Early this year, APS initiated a series of meetings with solar companies and other interested parties to address net metering.

In March, California rooftop-installation companies SolarCity Corp. and Sunrun Inc., with other partners, formed TUSK, or “Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed.”

The group opposed changes to net metering even before APS formally submitted its proposed changes to the Corporation Commission, which approves rates and related policies for most of the state’s utilities.

Shortly after TUSK launched, 60 Plus began criticizing SolarCity and Sunrun, comparing them with Solyndra, the California solar company that took more than $500 million in federal assistance and then filed for bankruptcy.

Soon after, Prosper joined the debate on the side of APS. Prosper has been running television commercials calling for changes to net metering.

* * *

Adams said he formed Prosper to promote free-market principles. He would not acknowledge the group is getting money from APS, even though company officials confirmed contributing to the group.

Adams said Prosper has several donors, and that he did not form the group to work exclusively for APS. “That is categorically false in every respect,” he said. “Our organization had its genesis last fall.”

He said Prosper has also been campaigning to prevent the expansion of Medicaid. He said Prosper has had limited contact with APS regarding net metering and that he chose to get involved in the issue independent of any donations.

* * *

APS officials declined to say how much they are spending on 60 Plus and Prosper, but costs of the television advertisements tied to the net-metering issue run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Huffington Post added some details the Republic left out, Arizona Solar Policy Fight Heats Up As Utility Admits To Funding Nonprofits’ Campaign Ads:

Arizona’s largest utility admitted this week that it had paid a national conservative group to run anti-solar ads, after denying earlier in the year that it was funding the campaign.

* * *

The debate over the policy has split along some interesting political lines, with the son of Republican icon Barry Goldwater defending net metering against attacks from a national conservative organization. The 60 Plus Association, which presents itself as a more conservative alternative to the AARP, has been running ads in the state, along with a website, bashing the solar net-metering policy as “corporate welfare.”

* * *

APS has maintained that it is not anti-solar, it just wants to change the net metering policy. “We’ve been painted as anti-solar,” McDonald said. “That’s just absolutely untrue.”

But the ads and website from 60 Plus have been much more openly hostile to solar energy than APS has been in its public statements.

60 Plus is backed by the Koch brothers, and the Arizona Republic confirmed that the work against net metering in Arizona is being coordinated by conservative operative Sean Noble, who has been described as “the wizard behind the screen” in the Kochs’ donor network.

Prosper, the other named group that received money for its ads, is led by former Arizona Speaker of the House Kirk Adams (R) and has campaigned against net metering and against the expansion of Medicaid.

On Thursday, two other nonprofits operated by Noble and Adams were fined $1 million for failing to appropriately disclose political spending in California’s elections last year.

You get the gist: the “Kochtopus” web of dark money organizations in its hub of  operations in Maricopa County are hellbent on protecting their profits from carbon energy (coal/oil/gas) with the state’s largest utility companies. If the Koch brothers could buy the Sun, they would surely find a way.


Today the New York Times editorializes, The Koch Attack on Solar Energy:

At long last, the Koch brothers and their conservative allies in state government have found a new tax they can support. Naturally it’s a tax on something the country needs: solar energy panels.

For the last few months, the Kochs and other big polluters have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panels to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities. So they’ve been pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive.

Oklahoma lawmakers recently approved such a surcharge at the behest of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative group that often dictates bills to Republican statehouses and receives financing from the utility industry and fossil-fuel producers, including the Kochs. As The Los Angeles Times reported recently, the Kochs and ALEC have made similar efforts in other states, though they were beaten back by solar advocates in Kansas and the surtax was reduced to $5 a month in Arizona.

But the Big Carbon advocates aren’t giving up. The same group is trying to repeal or freeze Ohio’s requirement that 12.5 percent of the state’s electric power come from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2025. Twenty-nine states have established similar standards that call for 10 percent or more in renewable power. These states can now anticipate well-financed campaigns to eliminate these targets or scale them back.

The coal producers’ motivation is clear: They see solar and wind energy as a long-term threat to their businesses.

* * *

[G]iven new regulations on power-plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants, and the urgent need to reduce global warming emissions, the future clearly lies with renewable energy. In 2013, 29 percent of newly installed generation capacity came from solar, compared with 10 percent in 2012.

Renewables are good for economic as well as environmental reasons, as most states know. (More than 143,000 now work in the solar industry.) Currently, 43 states require utilities to buy excess power generated by consumers with solar arrays. This practice, known as net metering, essentially runs electric meters backward when power flows from rooftop solar panels into the grid, giving consumers a credit for the power they generate but don’t use.

The utilities hate this requirement, for obvious reasons. A report by the Edison Electric Institute, the lobbying arm of the power industry, says this kind of law will put “a squeeze on profitability,” and warns that if state incentives are not rolled back, “it may be too late to repair the utility business model.”

Since that’s an unsympathetic argument, the utilities have devised another: Solar expansion, they claim, will actually hurt consumers. The Arizona Public Service Company, the state’s largest utility, funneled large sums through a Koch operative to a nonprofit group that ran an ad claiming net metering would hurt older people on fixed incomes by raising electric rates. The ad tried to link the requirement to President Obama. Another Koch ad likens the renewable-energy requirement to health care reform, the ultimate insult in that world. “Like Obamacare, it’s another government mandate we can’t afford,” the narrator says.

That line might appeal to Tea Partiers, but it’s deliberately misleading. This campaign is really about the profits of Koch Carbon and the utilities, which to its organizers is much more important than clean air and the consequences of climate change.

Is there anything for which the billionaire bastard Koch brothers are not the enemy of mankind?


h/t DonkeyHotey