Misleading social media ads bash a rooftop solar bill. They’re backed by big utility companies.
Anyone scrolling Facebook in Michigan over the past week may have noticed ads attacking a new energy bill in the statehouse.
The proposed legislation would allow more people to put solar panels on their homes or businesses. It gets rid of a cap limiting how many solar installations can connect to the grid.
One of the ads reads, “Don’t let out-of-state special interests do to Michigan what they did to Texas.”
Clean energy advocates say the ads are misleading.
“It’s a combination of scare tactics and out-and-out lies,” adds John Freeman, the director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association.
Utility experts have stressed that the legislation does not threaten the reliability of the grid. “We don’t need a system-wide cap,” said Dan Scripps, the head of the Michigan Public Service Commission, a non-partisan government agency that regulates public utilities.
The 501(c)(4) organizations behind the ads are Alliance for Michigan Power and Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy. The groups have strong financial ties to DTE Energy, and Consumers Energy, respectively, and share several executive staff members with the utility companies, according to public documents reviewed by Kasper.
In past years, Consumers Energy has contributed over $40 million to Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy, Kasper notes.
He says the utility companies don’t want more people participating in rooftop solar programs because it eats into their profits.
“They’re in the business of selling electricity and this [proposed legislation] prevents that. So of course they would not like it,” adds Tony Anderson, general manager at Cherryland Electric Cooperative, a utility provider that would not be affected by the bill.
A representative from DTE Energy said the company could not speak for the Alliance for Michigan Power but is “in full support of solar and is investing heavily in solar projects.”
Consumers Energy did not provide a comment.