Green Energy Is Big Business. It’s No Surprise It Uses PR Tactics That Worked for Oil and Gas Industry
Over the next decade to slow the pace of climate change it is imperative that we transition towards a better mix of energy sources and speed the adoption of renewable power sources like wind and solar.
Fortunately, the Biden administration has jump-started the green energy transition with the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which will invest billions of dollars in upgrading our infrastructure and technology on things such as zero emission public transit vehicles, a network of electric vehicle car charging stations, new transmission lines to facilitate the expansion of renewables and clean energy, tax credits for wind, solar, nuclear and other renewable energy sources, and providing consumers with incentives to purchase more energy-efficient appliances.
Whenever this much money is washing around Washington, the competition to grab a piece of the pie is fierce. It results in aggressive public affairs campaigns and we’re already seeing a clash between old and new energy technologies, with each side spending millions to influence the transition.
A progressive organization, the Center for Biological Diversity, recently issued a press release about its new report — a joint project with the Energy and Policy Institute — entitled “U.S. Utilities Shut Off Power 5.7 Million Times as Shareholders, Executives Raked in Billions.” The release cites EPI as “a watchdog organization working to expose attacks on renewable energy and counter misinformation by fossil fuel and utility interests.”
A quick Google search of EPI would turn up my organization’s report detailing the extensive financial ties between EPI and rooftop solar companies notorious for preying on vulnerable populations.
While EPI calls itself a think tank and watchdog organization that aims to reveal the hidden influence of fossil fuel and utility companies, EPI is opaque about its own funding. EPI is not a nonprofit organization recognized by the IRS, nor is it registered with any relevant secretary of state.
Instead, EPI appears to be the creation of a public relations firm. Further, EPI has ties to the rooftop solar industry. While certainly not every rooftop solar company is problematic, the industry on the whole has a bad reputation for scamming low-income and unsophisticated customers. Attorneys general in numerous states including New Mexico, Texas, New Jersey and Massachusetts have filed complaints against and entered into settlement agreements with rooftop solar companies that have targeted and misled elderly and non-English speaking customers to sign long-term agreements for rooftop solar panels that can easily cost upwards of $20,000. The price of buying or leasing those panels can easily wipe out any cost savings they offer on customers’ electric bills.
We desperately need clean energy companies to help transition to a more environmentally sustainable economy, but green energy is a big business, and the media should give readers the whole picture when quoting a front group like EPI.
Michelle Kuppersmith is the executive director of Campaign for Accountability, a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life. You can reach her here by email.