Fake Grassroots Campaign Threatens California's Solar Energy

Fake Grassroots Campaign Threatens California's Solar Energy

In California, a coalition called Affordable Clean Energy for All (ACEA) has started running ads that suggest a hike in solar power prices will force average consumers to pay for solar panels for mansions. Though it claims to be a grassroots movement of low-income, senior, and environmental leaders, ACEA is actually a public relations campaign sponsored by big utility companies against the transition to solar power.

Why This Matters

Fake grassroots movements, or "astroturf" campaigns that take money from right-wing think tanks and fossil fuel companies, have become an increasingly popular strategy in fighting environmental policy. For example, fake groups like "Save Our Beach View" oppose offshore wind farms, warning that "leaking oil from turbines" could ruin natural habitats. Meanwhile, the Big Oil companies funding the group are pushing for expedited approvals for offshore drilling, which is incredibly damaging to marine wildlife.

Clean energy has been getting a big push -- 95% of new power generated in 2021 came from renewable energy. But putting a stop to misinformation from the oil industry is necessary to prevent any rollback on progress already made.

Al Jazeera: How dangerous is climate misinformation?, April 22, 2021.

VICE: The Fossil Fuel Industry Wants You to Think It's Solving Climate Change, July 14, 2021.

Solar Issues In California

Though these ACEA anti-solar panel ads are disingenuous, concerns about the accessibility of California's solar panels are legitimate. To reward people for installing solar panels, customers who use solar power can sell their excess energy for a utility bill credit, meaning that non-solar customers (generally lower-income) have to pay higher utility bills to maintain the grid.

To fight this disparity, the California Public Utilities Commission has proposed a new law to reduce utility credits for people with solar panels and charge them an additional monthly fee. The new measure is popular with California's big electric companies because it disincentivizes the use of solar power across the board. But, several studies show that solar is becoming more accessible to people with lower incomes. This measure would make solar panels unaffordable for people of most income levels, setting back the state's quest to reach net-zero emissions by 2045.