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Friday, February 14, 2014

Attention: Tom and Tom

ALEC’s Assault on Homeowners Who Have Gone Solar
A winter time reading from Tom Ferrio's energy use meter showing
his solar panels generated more power than he used

EDITOR’S NOTE: While Charlestown effectively bans residential wind energy, there is no ban on residential solar power. Indeed, even people with opposite politics views embrace solar power. Take CCA Party leader Tom Gentz and Progressive Charlestown co-founder Tom Ferrio as examples.

ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) is at it again and this time, they are going after homeowners who have installed solar panels. That would be people like me. Fortunately, I live in California, a state run by Democrats, where Republicans don’t even have any dark corners left in which to hide.

In a December report, Suzanne Goldberg of the Guardian wrote that about 800 state legislators and business leaders were set to meet in one of the super-secret, never open to the public meetings to discuss and vote on the boiler-plate legislative measures that will then go out to bought and paid for legislators willing to present them, sometimes unread – because that’s too much like actually doing their jobs – and push them through the law-making bodies of their states. Make no mistake, these pieces of legislation are designed to benefit business interests and not the interests of the citizens of the states “represented” by these so-called servants of the people.

There was a lot on the agenda and you can take a look HERE, but the thing that caught my eye is their plan to introduce legislation to penalize homeowners who have installed solar panels on their homes in an attempt to both lower their utility bills and help to contribute to a cleaner environment. The ALEC bill seeks to charge these “freerider” homeowners for feeding energy back into the grid.

John Eick, ALEC’s legislative analyst for energy, environment and agriculture, had this to say, “As it stands now, those direct generation customers are essentially freeriders on the system. They are not paying for the infrastructure they are using. In effect, all the other non direct generation customers are being penalized.”

Solar Panels on the roof  of Tom Gentz's main house

He was dismissive of the expense solar customers have incurred to install their systems, saying, “How are they going to get that electricity from their solar panel to somebody else’s house? They should be paying to distribute the surplus electricity.”

Now, I don’t know how other states handle their solar customers, although I found out that as of last November, Arizona actually levies a surcharge on solar panel owners of about $5 a month to the average homeowner for the offense of lowering their electric bills and feeding energy back into the grid. That’s a lot better than the $100 surcharge sought by the main utility company in the state, but still – really? People have to pay to feed energy back into the grid so the utility company can then sell it to their other customers? 

I do know that here in California, my utility, PG&E, pays me the wholesale price of the energy I feed back into the grid. Of course, when they’re selling it to their other customers, they make a profit. But according to ALEC, making a profit and having to actually pay someone for energy produced that can then be sold in the marketplace – well, that just isn’t enough to make up for the loss of the opportunity to further gouge those customers who have gone to the expense of installing solar panels on their homes. 

I say gouge because the impetus for me to go solar was insanely high utility bills incurred during one of the coolest summers I’ve experienced in my Northern California locale. I wrote an article about it and you can read that HERE.

The attack on homeowners who have gone solar is just a small fraction of the larger assault on the Obama Administration’s clean energy policies. 2013 saw attempts in a number of states across the country to gut clean energy policies, including conservative states like North Carolina, Kansas and Ohio, but even with massive pushes to repeal the Renewable Portfolio Standards, those measures failed. So the push for 2014 is to weaken those standards.

Gabe Eisner, director of the Energy and Policy Institute, said, “What we saw in 2013 was an attempt to repeal RPS laws, and when that failed … what we are seeing now is a strategy that appears to be pro-clean energy but would actually weaken those pro-clean energy laws by retreating to the lowest common denominator.”

This organization called ALEC crafts laws that are essentially wolves in sheep’s clothing. They look all nice and tidy, seem to be in the best interests of the citizens of a state, but when examined, the ugly underbelly of corporate profits at the expense of the citizens is always there, waiting to pounce.

From the food that you eat, to your rights as a worker, to holding corporations responsible for injuries inflicted upon the public, to undermining public education in favor of for-profit (and sometimes totally bogus) schools, to stripping environmental protections so oil, gas and coal companies and their distributors can continue to despoil the environment and then charge consumers for the cleanup of the messes they’ve made, this is a corporate enterprise bent on taking everything it can from this country and her people while giving back nothing but pain and suffering while they stand there smiling and pick your pocket.

No matter who you are, no matter where you live, these are issues that can directly affect you. But you have the power to make it all go away. All you have to do is VOTE in the 2014 mid-term elections. Vote for people who are pro-citizen, not pro-corporations. Vote for people who care about your lives and not the bottom line of corporations owned by the likes of the Koch Brothers. 

If there are no candidates like that in your legislative district, well, then maybe you might stand up and make a run for it yourself. It’s the only way we will wrest this country – state by state – from the hands of those who think the only meaning of green is money.

Ann Werner is a blogger and the author of CRAZY and Dreams and Nightmares. You can view her work at ARK Stories. Visit her on Twitter @MsWerner and Facebook