April 28, 2014

A Shadow Over Solar Energy: The Anti-Green Law Movement

Solar energy, often portrayed as the most saintly form of power generation, is getting painted in a new light. Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group lead by the Koch brothers, are spearheading the effort to overturn policies favorable to green energy.

The brothers, Charles and David Koch, are the heads of Koch Industries, the second largest privately held company in the US. Koch Industries is in the business of oil production and refinement, and is headquartered in Wichita, Kansas.

A recent attack ad aired in Arizona depicts solar energy users as parasites, freeloading off the system and forcing traditional energy users to foot the bill. The battle is spreading quickly to other states, as well. Americans for Prosperity is fighting to repeal green laws in Kansas, with additional campaigns in Ohio, Washington, and North Carolina.

The basis for the attack stems from primarily two policies. One policy requires utilities to draw a certain percentage of their power from renewable resources. The second policy, known as net metering, allows homes and businesses with solar panels on their roofs to sell excess energy produced back into the power grid.

Net metering specifically has gained the ire of power companies, who argue that net metering is unfair because it allows solar users access to the power grid without having to pay maintenance. The burden of the costs would fall directly onto the power companies and traditional power users.

On the other side of the debate, solar companies argue that without net metering, solar energy would be exorbitantly expensive. In a recent study by regulators in Vermont, they concluded that the benefits of solar energy to power grids far outweigh the costs of net metering.

Utility companies deny the claim, and are spending millions to overturn the policies.

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