The Walton family — majority owners of Walmart — are impeding America’s transition to a clean energy future, a new study by ILSR finds. At a time when more than 500,000 households and businesses are generating their own solar electricity, and the U.S. solar industry is employing 143,000 people, the Waltons are funding nearly two dozen organizations working to roll back renewable energy policies, while a Walton-owned company is pushing for regulations aimed at hindering the growth of rooftop solar power.
Rooftop solar — which is spreading rapidly thanks to favorable economics and strong state policies — offers a tremendous opportunity to accelerate the transition to renewable power, save money for households, and create tens of thousands of new jobs.
Because it’s revolutionizing who owns and profits from electricity generation, rooftop solar is seen as threat by many utilities and fossil fuel companies. They are now campaigning in multiple states to weaken policies that enable rooftop solar. They have begun to score wins, including a victory in Arizona, where regulators granted the state’s largest utility, APS, the right to impose fees on households with rooftop solar. Since then, rooftop installations have fallen by 40 percent. Arizona is now one of only five states where the number of solar jobs is actually declining.
While journalists have begun to expose the powerful interests, including the Koch brothers, behind these campaigns, the involvement of another wealthy family — the Waltons, heirs to the Walmart fortune and majority owners of the company’s stock — has gone unnoticed. This report finds:
- Since 2010, the Waltons have donated $4.5 million to more than 20 organizations, including the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity, and the American Enterprise Institute, which are leading the state campaigns against clean energy.
- A Walton-owned solar company, First Solar, was instrumental in helping APS win in Arizona, backing the utility even as the rest of the solar industry joined environmental and consumer groups in opposing the new fees. First Solar builds solar arrays for utilities and, as such, stands to benefit if households are blocked from generating their own electricity, even if it means slowing the overall growth of solar.
- First Solar also helped instigate a World Trade Organization proceeding that could force several U.S. states to repeal laws that use solar incentives to spur local job creation. First Solar does most of its manufacturing in Malaysia.
The findings of this report are significant in part because of what’s at stake for our energy system. This report also offers an instructive case study of the complexities of contemporary green-washing. Continue reading