Renewable energy is clean, sustainable, non-polluting, reduces our dependence on fossil fuels, improves the health of communities surrounding power plants, and protects the natural environment. Who could be against it?
Answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a lobbying group that is active in drafting and advocating controversial state legislation. It's not just interested in energy: In recent years ALEC has supported Arizona’s restrictive immigration legislation, the “Stand Your Ground” gun laws associated with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and voter identification laws proposed in many states. ALEC’s priorities for 2013 [PDF] include making it harder to bring product liability suits against manufacturers of defective products, ending traditional pension plans for public employees, promoting the diversion of public education funds into private schools and online education schemes, and supporting resistance to “Obamacare” health policies.
When it comes to energy, ALEC wants to speed up the permitting process for mines, oil and gas wells, and power plants -- and to eliminate all state requirements for the use of renewable energy. The latter goal is packaged as the “Electricity Freedom Act.” In numerous states, ALEC has used studies by Suffolk University’s Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) to claim that the “Electricity Freedom Act” will free ratepayers from the allegedly immense costs and job losses of renewable energy standards.
In a recent study for the Civil Society Institute, my colleagues and I at Synapse Energy Economics analyzed the ALEC studies of the costs of renewable energy. Our report [PDF] found fundamental flaws in both the energy data and the economic modeling used by BHI.
The ALEC/BHI energy analysis begins with wild overstatement of the costs of wind energy.