Thursday, January 18, 2018
Business

Crowd protests Duke Energy coal plants, touts solar

A crowd estimated at more than 120 people gathered across from Duke Energy Florida's headquarters in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, urging the utility to close two coal plants by 2016 and replace them with solar power.

Led by the Sierra Club, which is pushing utilities nationwide to close coal plants, almost two dozen groups participated in the chilly morning rally with banners that read "Sunshine State for Solar Power," "Solar is the Power!" and "Let the Sun shine."

"Duke Energy's Crystal River coal-fired power plant violates air-quality standards for sulfur dioxide pollution that can trigger asthma attacks and cause other respiratory problems," said Kelly Martin, the senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club.

"Clean Energy solutions are here, happening and helping to make our air and water cleaner," Martin said.

In 2011, then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg committed $50 million to the Sierra Club over four years for the organization's campaign to push for the closure of the nation's dirtiest coal plants by 2020.

Duke plans to close Crystal River coal units 1 and 2 by 2020, but the groups want the utility to act sooner because the generators are considered among the nation's worst polluters.

The generation capacity of those two coal units exceeds 840 megawatts. Replacing them with solar power would require more than seven times the current amount of utility-scale solar in the state. And even then, the solar installation would not match the coal units' output because solar doesn't produce any power at night.

In response to the rally, Duke said it was listening to the concerns of its customers.

"At Duke Energy, we support cost-effective solar energy and recognize it plays a vital role in our state's energy future," said Ann Marie Varga, a Duke spokeswoman. Varga's statement echoed an article Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good wrote in the November/December issue of Electric Perspectives:

"Delivering safe, affordable, reliable, and increasingly clean energy must remain central to our mission. Customers are demanding options, such as more flexible rate offerings, distributed and clean generation, such as rooftop solar, and greater control over their power bills."

Several groups frustrated with Duke have organized rallies at the company's Florida headquarters in recent months. Part of the concern stems from a lack of focus by Florida utilities on the use of solar technology. Florida lags behind such not-so-sunny states as Massachusetts and New Jersey in deployment of solar.

R. Alexander "Alex" Glenn, president of Duke Energy Florida, has said intermittent cloud cover is a problem for solar, even in the Sunshine State. "We're also the partly cloudy state," he told state lawmakers.

Duke's critics call the cloudy comments just excuses to avoid developing solar, so they intend to push for action by the utilities.

Before this week, most of the rallies drew a few dozen people, but the Sierra Club used a different tact for Wednesday's gathering by organizing various groups and forming a coalition to bring their concerns to the utility and public officials.

The partnership, dubbed the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition, includes such organizations as the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Tampa Bay area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Florida Consumer Action Network, Greenpeace and the Florida Public Interest Research Group.

The coalition members pledged Wednesday to collect some 10,000 signatures to press Duke to bring more solar power to the Sunshine State.

The rally attracted St. Petersburg City Council member-elect Darden Rice, who said local elected officials will need to put forth more effort to promote change since state leaders have not moved the utilities to act in the best interest of consumers and the environment.

"I think the time for excuses is running out," Rice said.

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.

Comments
Apple to build second campus, hire 20,000 in $350B pledge

Apple to build second campus, hire 20,000 in $350B pledge

Associated PressSAN FRANCISCO — Apple is planning to build another corporate campus and hire 20,000 workers during the next five years as part of a $350 billion commitment to the United States that will be partially financed by an upcoming windfall f...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Water Street Tampa developers seek artist and design for $600,000 outdoor art near USF med school

Water Street Tampa developers seek artist and design for $600,000 outdoor art near USF med school

TAMPA — Water Street Tampa called Wednesday for artists to send in their ideas for a big piece of public art for the outdoor plaza between one of the $3 billion project’s office buildings and the new University of South Florida Morsani College of Med...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tourism brought in record $112 billion to Florida in 2016

Tourism brought in record $112 billion to Florida in 2016

Tourism brought in a record $112 billion to Florida’s economy in 2016, up about 3 percent from 2015, according to Visit Florida figures released Wednesday. About 10 percent — $88 billion — of the state’s gross domestic product came from tourism in 20...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

Time to carbo load: Three new bakeries include an Australian bakery, second La Segunda

LA SEGUNDAA Tampa Bay giant has stirred and is on the move. La Segunda Central Bakery, a family-owned Ybor City institution for nearly 103 years (they celebrated that birthday Jan. 15) and the largest producer of Cuban bread in the world, will open a...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Dow Jones closes above 26,000 for first time

Dow Jones closes above 26,000 for first time

The latest on developments in financial markets (All times local):4 p.m.Stocks are closing higher on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones industrial average to its first close above 26,000 points.The Dow had traded above that level on Tuesday but wound...
Published: 01/17/18
Pasco goats somehow make yoga less weird

Pasco goats somehow make yoga less weird

DADE CITY — More than 36 million Americans practice yoga, but many people still feel intimidated by the ancient method of controlling the body and mind through physical and mental practices.Perhaps it is the daunting terms or confusing poses that cau...
Published: 01/17/18
Behold: The fastest cars at this year’s Detroit Auto Show

Behold: The fastest cars at this year’s Detroit Auto Show

DETROIT — Despite all the hype surrounding auto shows, let’s get real for a moment: The majority of the vehicles on display will end up ferrying kids to soccer practice, embarking on road trips and commuting between work and home each day.That’s unde...
Published: 01/17/18
This is why clothing companies want to know about your weight, jobs and past pregnancies

This is why clothing companies want to know about your weight, jobs and past pregnancies

The first step for a shopper buying a suit at the fast-growing menswear retailer Indochino is sharing his personal information: A salesperson armed with an iPad measures nearly everything on his body, from the distance between his belly button and re...
Published: 01/17/18
TECO, Duke linemen to help restore power in Puerto Rico

TECO, Duke linemen to help restore power in Puerto Rico

TAMPA — As more than 1.5 million people in Puerto Rico remain powerless, local linemen are stepping up and flying out to the island to help restore electricity. On Wednesday morning, 25 linemen boarded a flight from Tampa International Airport to Pu...
Published: 01/17/18

Pasco Business Digest for Jan. 19

Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18