Make us your home page

Florida owes $52.7 million in unpaid solar energy rebates

LARGO — The state owes Floridians $52.7 million in unpaid solar energy rebates and has no immediate plan to honor its financial promise.

More than 15,800 people await the rebates, which were dangled before homeowners and businesses to encourage greater investment in solar energy technologies such as solar-power water heaters and electric systems.

The state's new fiscal year, which started in July, marks the second consecutive year that the Florida Legislature has refused to fund the popular program.

Some people have been on the waiting list for years, said Travis Yelverton, deputy director of the Governor's Energy Office.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Bud Chiles has made the state's stalled renewable energy plan a campaign bulwark and flagged the unfunded rebates Monday as he toured Solar Source, a solar installation company in Largo.

He called the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster an alarm bell.

"Florida consumers are getting a much better sense that fossil fuels cost more than the $3 you put in at the pump," said Chiles, who drives a Toyota Prius. "There is a real pressure mounting."

The rebate program kicked off in 2006, but soon lost political capital as lawmakers looked to close billion-dollar budget gaps.

Homeowners and businesses could apply for rebates ranging from $500 for a solar water heater to $100,000 for a commercial roof system.

"Do I think they should be funded? Absolutely," said Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, who introduced renewable energy legislation in the past to mixed results. "We just don't have any money." Bennett said solar companies that promised rebates to their customers also share some blame. "They didn't say, 'You'll only get the rebate if (the money) doesn't run out,' " he said.

Environmental activists said they weren't surprised by the program's neglect, which they linked to the Republican-led Legislature's unwillingness to promote new energy sources.

"The fact that there is no funding there demonstrates a complete lack of understanding by the leadership in the Legislature," said Cathy Harrelson, a St. Petersburg activist who organized a Hands Across the Sand offshore oil drilling protest in St. Pete Beach in June. "As I see it, the state of Florida has a contract with these people and they need to pony up."

Chiles was the first gubernatorial candidate to outline an energy plan. In June, he vowed to create a renewable energy loan fund and require utilities to set targets to conserve energy. He also called on Florida power companies to produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020, a plan Gov. Charlie Crist touted early in his tenure, but could not get through the Legislature.

In Largo on Monday, Chiles lambasted the Legislature for paying deference to the state's powerful energy companies. "I don't know any industries that are more dinosaur-like," he said.

"You guys are like the messiah to the clean energy industry," said Wayne Wallace, president of Solar Source, before handing over a $50 campaign contribution and a promise to vote for Chiles.

Democrat Alex Sink proposed a similar energy plan last month that called for a "renewable portfolio standard," which would require electric companies to use a certain amount of clean energy to fuel their power plants by a set date.

Last week Republican Bill McCollum unveiled his plan, which calls for letting the free market sort out "expensive" wind and solar energy sources, partnering with private business to develop electric plug-in vehicles and removing regulatory barriers to expedite biofuel production.

His primary rival, Rick Scott, has not detailed his energy ideas. Scott has said he does not believe in climate change. He supports offshore drilling and expanding nuclear power.

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or

Florida owes $52.7 million in unpaid solar energy rebates 08/02/10 [Last modified: Monday, August 2, 2010 10:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Water Street Tampa unveils video showing downtown's transformation


    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  2. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  3. Treasury secretary's wife boasts of travel on government plane, touts high fashion


    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's wife, Louise Linton, boasted of flying on a government plane with her husband to Kentucky on Monday and then named the numerous fashion brands she wore on the trip in an unusual social media post that only became more bizarre minutes later.

    Steven Mnuchin and his then- financee Louise Linton watch as President Donald Trump speaks during Mnuchin's swearing-in ceremony as  treasury secretary in the Oval Office of the White House on Feb. 13. [Mandel Ngan | AFP via Getty Images]
  4. Ford, Chinese partner look at possible electric car venture


    BEIJING — Ford Motor Co. and a Chinese automaker said Tuesday they are looking into setting up a joint venture to develop and manufacture electric cars in China.

    In this April 23, 2016 photo, attendees take smartphone photos at a promotional event for Ford Motor Company ahead of the Auto China car show in Beijing. Ford Motor Co. announced an agreement Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 with a Chinese partner to look into forming a joint venture to develop and manufacture electric cars in China. [AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein]
  5. Judge throws out $458,000 condo sale, says Clearwater attorney tricked bidders

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold on Monday threw out the $458,100 sale of a gulf-front condo because of what he called an "unscrupulous" and "conniving" scheme to trick bidders at a foreclosure auction.

    John Houde, left, whose Orlando copany was the high  bidder June 8 at the foreclosure auction of a Redington Beach condo, looks in the direction of Clearwater lawyer and real estate investor Roy C. Skelton, foreground,  during a hearing Monday before Pinellas County Circuit Judge Jack St. Arnold.  [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times ]