Environment Massachusetts and student activists highlight attacks on solar power, urge officials to commit to 100% renewable energy

Media Contacts
Meghan Hassett

Environment Massachusetts

BOSTON, MA – With solar power on the rise around the country, a national network of fossil fuel and utility-backed organizations have joined forces to put the brakes on this fast growing pollution-free energy resource.  Trade groups and think tanks backed by deep pocketed anti-clean energy ideologues and fossil interests are bankrolling campaigns, promoting model legislation and media campaigns to provide cover for anti-solar campaigns across the country, said a new report released today by Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. 

Student activists joined Environment Massachusetts and MASSPIRG Students at the State House to share the findings of the report with legislators and urge officials to eliminate limits on solar power and support a goal of 100 percent renewable energy for Massachusetts.

“Pollution-free solar energy represents America’s most abundant energy resource,” said Meghan Hassett with Environment Massachusetts. “For our climate and our environment, we can’t allow special interest forces in the fossil fuel industry to pull the plug on the bright potential of solar power.” 

The report, Blocking the Sun, documents 17 fossil fuel backed groups and electric utilities running some of the most aggressive campaigns to slow the growth of solar energy in 12 states.

Of the findings, the report documents how the Koch brothers have provided funding to the national fight against solar by funneling tens of millions of dollars through a network of opaque nonprofits; the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provides utility and fossil fuel interests with access to state legislatures, and its anti-net metering policy resolution has inspired legislation in a set of states; utilities in Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, West Virginia, California and Illinois have undertaken extensive campaigns to revoke renewable energy policy or impose new charges on their solar customers. 

In mid-2016, there were at least 84 ongoing policy actions in U.S. states that could impact the growth of solar energy, including through limitations to net metering or new charges to make rooftop solar power less economically viable.

In Massachusetts, officials voted in April to lift the caps on net metering, a program that ensures fair compensation for the energy that solar panels provide to the grid. As a result, Massachusetts can add enough solar panels to power 100,000 additional homes.

Utility companies had lobbied to keep the caps in place and cut the value of solar net metering credits. Legislators cut the value of the credits by 40 percent for most categories of projects, including shared solar installations serving low-income communities, renters, and people whose roofs can’t accommodate solar panels.

“Solar power is the future of energy, sustainable economic growth, technological innovation and job creation and should be available to everyone. We can’t allow Solar to fall victim to regressive forces trying to bring back a dirtier energy world,” said Roger Freeman, founder and Managing Principal of Massachusetts-based solar company Solventerra. “We’ve come too far to see the solar industry stall out waiting on regulations to catch up. For example, SREC II should be extended until a new program is in place so businesses like Solventerra can continue to grow and drive innovation and opportunity in the Commonwealth.” 

Advocates are pushing to eliminate limits on clean energy and adopt a goal of getting 100 percent of Massachusetts’ energy from clean, renewable sources. Studies from major universities and institutions have shown that 100 percent renewable energy is within reach, using technologies that are available today.

“Solar is finally catching on and providing tremendous benefits, reducing pollution, saving consumers and businesses money, and revitalizing local economies,” said Alecsandra Steele, Environment Massachusetts student intern. “Now, more than ever, states must lead the charge on a transition to solar power and renewable energy.” 

The report urges state decision makers to recognize and resist utility and fossil fuel industry influence that seeks to undermine solar energy and to instead encourage the growth of solar. 

“From damage caused by extreme weather to harmful pollution, Massachusetts is already feeling the effects of climate change,” said Vincent Maravantano, Executive Director of Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light. “Solar power is a fantastic way to do the right thing for creation and for future generations. Lower income folks who pay more for energy and are harmed more by the effects of climate change must have equal access to solar power.”

 “Massachusetts has a history of leadership in protecting the environment and providing for economic opportunity with renewable energy, and we can and should do more to free up the sun,” said Cathy Ann Buckley, Chair of the Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter. “We can’t turn down technological progress, a stronger economy and a cleaner planet just to line the pockets of the fossil fuel industry.”