Make us your home page
Instagram

Coalition of conservatives, liberals fight for more Florida solar power

Florida law now does
not allow those who generate electricity from the sun to sell that power directly to other consumers.

iStockphoto.com

Florida law now does not allow those who generate electricity from the sun to sell that power directly to other consumers.

Imagine the Christian Coalition and the tea party joining hands with liberals and environmentalists.

Add to the Kumbaya moment Libertarians and Florida's retail business federation.

They all plan to unite this morning for a news conference in Tallahassee about their campaign to allow those in Florida who generate electricity from the sun to sell that power directly to other consumers. Right now, that's illegal here.

The coalition, which has dubbed itself Floridians for Solar Choice, has crafted a petition that was approved for circulation last month. They'll need 683,149 signatures by Feb. 1, 2016, to get the question on the ballot for the 2016 election.

For some it's ideological. For others, such as the retailers, it's pure economics.

"It is strange bedfellows," said Steve Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a Tennessee-based environmental group. "We all agree we want a free market.

"As long as we don't talk about a lot of other issues," he said and laughed, "we'll be fine."

So what made this alliance possible?

"People care about their electric bills," said Ash Mason, the Christian Coalition's Southeast regional energy policy director.

"We're not here to battle traditional coal, nuclear or natural gas," Mason said of the Christian Coalition's position. "We want to push for anything that's efficient. It's about independence."

Florida relies on investor-owned utilities such as Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric and Florida Power & Light.

They have argued that solar costs too much, that too many clouds hang over the Sunshine State for solar to be effective. And if too many well-heeled utility customers go solar, the cost to maintain power lines and power plants will soar, adding undue burden on the poor, the utilities say.

The utility industry refers to solar and energy efficiency as disruptive technologies, as they threaten the electric companies' business model. Utilities earn money from building power plants as well as from selling electricity — not watching their customers disappear to their personal rooftop power plants.

"Solar power and other renewable resources will be an important part of Florida's energy future," said Sterling Ivey, a Duke spokesman. "We believe our best opportunity to promote solar in Florida is to work with state leaders to help create a policy to incorporate solar over the long-term and that is fair to all consumers and solar energy power generators."

Critics of the utilities argue that charging customers to build more power plants hurts the poor more than solar.

If the proposed ballot measure passes, solar proponents argue that it would open up Florida's solar energy market, which has largely stagnated for years. The measure would allow business or property owners to produce up to 2 megawatts of solar power and sell that power directly to others, such as tenants, without having to go through a utility.

Under state law, only utilities can sell electricity directly to consumers, though solar proponents argue that 36 states allow the practice.

"We just find it inconceivable that we can't contract with somebody to put solar on the rooftops we own and sell power," said Randy Miller, executive vice president of the Florida Retail Federation. "We're here because it means a lot to our bottom line."

By removing the utilities as middlemen, the argument goes, it could help spur solar as a clean-energy alternative.

Republican Tory Perfetti, a Tampa resident and head of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, is leading the ballot initiative. The coalition expects a tough fight against the utilities.

However, some have questioned whether the coalition can stick together considering members disagree on so many other issues.

"Can we trust them?" Smith said some of his organization's followers have asked on social media. "It's easy for folks to say, 'no way, no how.' "

Smith credits Georgia tea party leader Debbie Dooley with forging the alliance they've built. "I really find her to be somebody true to her principles."

Alex Snitker, vice chairman of the Libertarian Party of Florida, said he will stand with the coalition Wednesday to support the initiative and urged members of his party to help get it on the ballot. Snitker said united fronts behind a solution are rare, but this one he believes should be given to the people to decide.

"Allowing for more choice and allowing more freedom," he said, "is a good thing."

Contact Ivan Penn at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow @Consumers_Edge.

Coalition of conservatives, liberals fight for more Florida solar power 01/13/15 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 10:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Memorial Day sales not enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay malls

    Retail

    TAMPA — Memorial Day sales at Tampa Bay area malls were not enough to compete with the beach and backyard barbecues this holiday weekend.

    Memorial Day sales weren't enough to draw shoppers to Tampa Bay area malls over the long weekend. 
[JUSTINE GRIFFIN | Times]
  2. Austin software company acquires second Tampa business

    Corporate

    Austin, Tex.-based Asure Software acquired Tampa's Compass HRM Inc. late last week for $6 million. Compass focuses on HR and payroll.

    [Company photo]
  3. Hackers hide cyberattacks in social media posts

    Business

    SAN FRANCISCO — It took only one attempt for Russian hackers to make their way into the computer of a Pentagon official. But the attack didn't come through an email or a file buried within a seemingly innocuous document.

    Jay Kaplan and Mark Kuhr, former NSA employees and co-founders of Synack, a cybersecurity company, in their office in Palo Alto, Calif., in 2013. While last year's hacking of senior Democratic Party officials raised awareness of the damage caused if just a handful of employees click on the wrong emails, few people realize that a message on Twitter or Facebook could give an attacker similar access to their system. 
[New York Times file photo]
  4. Big rents and changing tastes drive dives off St. Pete's 600 block

    Music & Concerts

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kendra Marolf was behind the lobby bar of the State Theatre, pouring vodka sodas for a weeknight crowd packed tight for Bishop Briggs, the latest alternative artist to sell out her club.

    Sam Picciano, 25, left, of Tampa and Molly Cord 24, Palm Harbor shop for record albums for a friend at Daddy Kool Records located on the 600 block of Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, Florida on Saturday, May 20, 2017. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
  5. How Hollywood is giving its biggest stars digital facelifts

    Business

    LOS ANGELES — Johnny Depp is 53 years old but he doesn't look a day over 26 in the new "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie — at least for a few moments. There was no plastic surgeon involved, heavy makeup or archival footage used to take the actor back to his boyish "Cry Baby" face, however. It's all …

    This combination of photos released by Disney, shows the character Jack Sparrow at two stages of his life in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales."  Johnny Depp, who portrays the character, is the latest mega-star to get the drastic de-aging treatment on screen
[Disney via Associated Press]