House Examines DOE Solar Funding for Anti-Lobbying Violations

Turn to the nation's most objective and informative daily environmental news resource to learn how the United States and key players around the world are responding to the environmental...

By Rebecca Kern

Aug. 23 — Two renewable energy groups and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz are reviewing letters sent by a House committee asking whether they used Energy Department funding to lobby for state subsidies for rooftop solar projects, which could violate anti-lobbying law.

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sent letters Aug. 16 to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), a nonprofit organization focused on accelerating renewable energy, and Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA), a nonprofit coalition of organizations focused on advancing clean energy. Both groups received federal grants from the DOE as part of the SunShot Initiative, which seeks to make solar energy cost-competitive by the end of the decade.

The committee also sent a letter Aug. 16 to Moniz, asking about the funding for both the renewable energy groups, and how it was allocated and used for rooftop solar.

In the letters, the committee said it is particularly interested in the use of SunShot funding for rooftop solar projects specifically because of a study showing the cost of rooftop solar is higher than producing solar energy from utility scale solar.

Concerns About Lobbying Government Officials

In the letter to IREC, the committee said the group has received $28 million since 2010 from DOE for renewable energy outreach and advocacy. “Your reliance on an outside law firm has raised questions about whether your organization’s activities may have run afoul of the anti-lobbying act,” the letter says.

An IREC spokewoman told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 23 that it received the letter and it will be responding to the request for information.

Also, Warren Leon, executive director for CESA, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 23 that the group does not engage in lobbying on any topic and is working on a response.

The DOE also said it received the letter and is reviewing it, according to a DOE spokeswoman.

The letters also ask for all correspondence between the groups and the DOE related to the Sunshot Initiative and how the grant money was allocated, and all correspondence between the groups and any government official or entity referring to solar energy issues, the Sunshot Initiative, DOE grants or the allocation of DOE grant money.

The committee said it wants responses by Aug. 30.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebecca Kern in Washington at rKern@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The letter to the Clean Energy States Alliance is available at http://src.bna.com/hYw.The letter to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council is available at http://src.bna.com/hYx.The letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is available at http://src.bna.com/hYz.

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.