In Colorado, alarm and concern is quickly spreading with revelations that Glenn Vaad, appointed by Governor Hickenlooper as one of three Public Utilities Commissioners, is also a former high ranking member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  ALEC is corporate lobbying group whose membership includes Exxon Mobil, Koch Industries and the Xcel Energy trade association, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI).

Over the last 3 days, hundreds of concerned Coloradans have signed a online petition calling on the Colorado Senate and Governor Hickenlooper to reject Vaad’s appointment to the PUC on Tuesday January 7th fearing Vaad’s nomination will harm Colorado’s prospects for adding more renewable energy to the grid and damage the state’s cleantech sector that employs 22,000 people.

“There is a clear conflict of interest –  Glenn Vaad was a high-ranking representative of a corporate lobbying group that is coordinating a national attack on clean energy,” explains Gabe Elsner, Executive Director for the Energy and Policy Institute, “In the past year, ALEC’s utility and fossil fuel members lobbied lawmakers in at least 15 states to introduce legislation repealing Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards.  Now ALEC is launching a new wave of attacks on clean energy policies like solar net metering.  On February 3, a Colorado PUC hearing is scheduled to consider an Xcel Energy request to slash solar payments to homeowners who invest in clean energy. There’s a real threat that Mr. Vaad will serve ALEC’s special interest members instead of Colorado families.”

While serving as a Colorado state representative, unknown to most of his constituents, Glenn Vaad was also serving as the Chair of ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development task force during 2011 and 2012.  Whistle blower documents provided to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), expose that former Rep. Glenn Vaad also received an ALEC “State Legislator of the Year” Award in 2012.

An October 2012 report entitled “Buying Influence” by Common Cause indicates that Colorado PUC nominee Glenn Vaad received ALEC “scholarships” in 2006, 2007 and 2008, including money from Xcel Energy.

These corporate funded gifts paid for Rep. Vaad’s travel to ALEC’s conferences, where lobbyists draft model legislation in partnership with state legislators. Current Colorado ethics laws exempt ALEC activities from being considered lobbying.  Hence, Vaad is under no obligation to report ALEC “scholarships” received from 2009 to 2012 or any he might receive during his term as a PUC commissioner.

Further fueling these conflict of interest charges, Xcel Energy has been a corporate funder of ALEC in the past and contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to EEI.  In turn, EEI provides funding to ALEC, and the two organizations work in partnership to lobby state legislatures on behalf of the utility industry.  Payments from Xcel Energy to EEI along with payments from EEI to ALEC are documented on the Friends of the Colorado PUC website.

In January 2013, EEI published a playbook detailing how distributed solar energy generation is a threat to the utility industry’s business model which in large part relies on large, costly fossil fuel power plants.  According to Businessweek, utilities across the country generate revenues of $400 billion per year selling electricity.  EEI is now pushing an attack on solar net metering policies through ALEC to stop the spread of distributed solar in order to protect utility industry profits.

Mr. Vaad’s will be sworn in as a Colorado public commissioner on January 7, 2014, for a three year term. As a Commissioner, Vaad will be ruling on renewable energy cases including net metering for rooftop solar, ongoing implementation of renewable portfolio standards and the potential transfer of Xcel Energy assets to the City of Boulder as part of a voter backed municipalization process.

“Colorado ranks 7th in the nation for solar with 314 MW of solar generation installed and 328 solar companies creating a bright future,” says Elsner. “I’m convinced Coloradans will speak out for a clean energy future that includes rooftop solar.  Now that Vaad’s ALEC background has come to light, the Colorado Senate and Governor Hickenlooper should reject Vaad’s conflict-laden a on January 7th and work to find a PUC Commissioner that will work for the best interests of the people of Colorado.”

More Information:  Further details of Mr. Vaad’s deep and substantive ties with ALEC, details of IRS 501(c)(3) tax fraud charges filed against ALEC by Common Cause and ALEC model legislation calling for repeal of state Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (RPS) and the ALEC Market-Power Renewables Act that directly seeks to influence state legislators and public utility commissioners to weaken clean energy regulations can be viewed at the website of: Friends of the Colorado PUC

Posted by Gabe Elsner

Gabe Elsner is the founder and former executive director of the Energy & Policy Institute. He is a thought leader on defending policies from attacks by incumbent energy interests and his work has been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg, The Daily Mail, The Australian, The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, and National Public Radio. The Energy & Policy Institute’s work has protected dozens of public policies that support the growth of the clean-tech industry.