I had other plans for today but I have to post on this topic. I came across two separate articles that stated that the costs of renewables are cheaper than power from existing alternatives which reminded me that I have to do a post on that topic. However, the thing that prompted this post was buried at the bottom of the Christian Science Monitor article Power pivot: What happens in states where wind dethrones King Coal?
In particular at the bottom of article was the statement: “This story was produced with support from an Energy Foundation grant to cover the environment.” That link leads to a June 29, 2018 page that notes that “the Energy Foundation has given a grant to support the Monitor’s distinctive approach to climate change coverage”. It goes on to say:
The Monitor believes the solution to climate change doesn’t come from speaking more loudly or citing even more peer-reviewed science, but from recognizing why people come to climate change from such vastly different perspectives – and meeting them where they are. Changing minds to find paths forward starts with a deep commitment to humanity and respect, not from frustrated finger-pointing.
That perspective has drawn the attention of some philanthropists interested in supporting media outlets bringing light to this divisive topic. The Monitor’s science desk is the proud recipient of a special grant from the Energy Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to “serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.” You can read more about the Energy Foundation here. These funds are specifically to bolster the Monitor’s approach to coverage of climate, energy, and the environment during the coming year.
Presumably, the grant was extended to continue support since it has longer than a year since this description appeared and the August 21, 2020 publication of Power pivot: What happens in states where wind dethrones King Coal?
I had never heard of the Energy Foundation. Their mission statement makes their motivation clear: “Our mission is to secure a clean and equitable energy future to tackle the climate crisis.”
The following is their vision statement:
We envision a healthy, safe, equitable economy powered by clean energy. We believe a thriving clean energy economy can create sustainable opportunities, spur innovation, and protect our climate—for today and future generations.
Energy Foundation supports education and analysis to promote non-partisan policy solutions that advance renewable energy and energy efficiency while opening doors to greater innovation and productivity—growing the economy with dramatically less pollution. For nearly 30 years, Energy Foundation has supported grantees to help educate policymakers and the general public about the benefits of a clean energy economy. Our grantees include business, health, environmental, labor, equity, community, faith, and consumer groups, as well as policy experts, think tanks, universities, and more.
We are a complex, multi-site, multicultural nonprofit organization with big plans for the future. Under the leadership of our CEO, Energy Foundation has embarked on a major strategy refresh, a prioritized commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), and rapid geographic expansion.
Our comprehensive approach advances energy efficiency and renewable energy in the power, transportation, and buildings sectors. Our programs focus on developing innovative policies and campaigns to help propel clean energy development in these sectors. The Venues team is a cross-disciplinary team of policy, communications, and campaign experts dedicated to advancing strong state and regional climate and clean energy policies. The Policy team works to deliver strategy and network support services to our issue-focused grantees and funding partners. And the Strategic Communications team develops powerful narrative and communications strategies designed to build support for our work regionally and nationwide.
Energy Foundation’s founding office is in San Francisco, CA, with regional offices in Raleigh, NC; Chicago, IL; Washington, DC; and Las Vegas, NV.
Energy Foundation funds do not support legislative lobbying or electoral activities.
The Energy Foundation is not a small organization courageously fighting the noble cause against “Big Oil”. Their 2017 IRS Form 990 claims total revenues in 2016 of $118.9 million and $110.2 million in 2017; total expenses of $113.6 million in 2016 and $114.1 million in 2017; and net assets of $62.4 million at the close of 2017. The Form 990 is worth a read if only to see the large number of organizations that receive grants to “promote education and analysis” to support a clean energy future. I was surprised to see universities among the grantees – three California state universities received on the order of $2 million alone. Missing from their web page is any description of who funds the Energy Foundation itself.
I wrote this post because this particular quote caught my eye: “We’ve reached a point where it is now cheaper to build and operate a wind farm or solar plant than it is to operate a coal plant,” says Joe Daniel, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington. “And that trend is going to continue.” I see that often and get exasperated every time I see it because, like most people, I don’t care what it costs to build a power plant. The only thing I care about is how much it costs me to get electricity when and where I need it. When those considerations are added to the costs of any renewable source of electricity the price sky rockets.
I have long thought that any journalist that does not caveat such a statement either lacks understanding in general or does not understand the energy system well enough. After finding out that there is a foundation that provides funding to news organizations I have to add a less flattering reason for not providing the full explanation. The Christian Science Monitor has a motivated reason to continue to receive funding from an organization dedicated to “serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.” In that light even the possibility that a “clean energy economy” may have flaws and that overall it may not be in the best public interest is not going to be incorporated in any reporting.