Make us your home page

Progress Energy warms up to solar energy

Hard to believe, but the electric company that once routinely panned solar power as too expensive and inefficient is about to introduce a whole bunch of new solar initiatives for its customers and eventually market it all here under a brand name called SunSense.

Progress Energy Florida submitted an updated 10-year plan this week to the Florida Public Service Commission that stretches its existing energy-efficiency goal of 412 million kilowatt hours to nearly 618 million kwh. That's a 50 percent increase. The company wants to offer subsidized programs to put solar photovoltaic arrays on Florida homes and businesses. And it seeks to boost its rebate by $50 (to $500) to install solar-power hot water heaters.

The PSC must first sign off on these and other initiatives.

"As the costs of life's essentials continue to rise, we know our customers want more options for saving on their energy bills," says Progress Energy Florida CEO Jeff Lyash.

All true. But is this the same Jeff Lyash who in 2007 said that Progress Energy would continue to explore alternative energy, including solar power, but noted technological breakthroughs to enhance prospects for alternative energy supplies are likely decades in the future?

It seemed a simpler time in 2006 when Lyash succeeded Bill Habermeyer as Progress Energy Florida chief. Lyash was a smart engineer with solid nuclear power experience. His primary mission was to shepherd the lengthy creation of a new generation nuclear power plant in Levy County, north of Tampa Bay.

That still is Lyash's top goal. But for several reasons, he's multi-tasking a lot more now than he might have thought when he took the top job:

• Oil and gas prices began to escalate sharply after Lyash became CEO, alarming Americans used to cheaper energy prices and reigniting the alternative energy industry.

• When Florida Gov. Charlie Crist took office in 2007, he accelerated Florida's push into alternative energy by embracing ethanol and biomass plants, and later blessed some proposed, large-scale solar plants. Reading the political tea leaves, Progress Energy raised its commitments and public relations efforts to alternative energy as a viable source of electricity. This week's flurry of announced solar power initiatives is part of that plan.

• When President Barack Obama took office in January, federal support of alternative energies and cleaner-climate initiatives soared even more.

• Progress Energy Florida's initial cost estimates for its Levy County nuclear power plant (with two reactors) and the new transmission lines needed to deliver electricity from the plant ballooned over time to more than $17 billion. While Progress Energy successfully persuaded state legislators to let it charge its Florida customers on a pay-as-you-go basis — minimizing corporate debt required to cover the expensive plants — the escalating price tag backfired.

Progress Energy backed off higher 2009 customer rates that hit amid a recession and rising unemployment. But the company plans more rate hikes later.

Catering to the popularity of solar power while lusting for nuclear power. Such is Progress Energy Florida's delicate balancing act these days.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

Progress Energy warms up to solar energy 06/03/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 3, 2009 8:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Irish 31 brings flair, flavor to Wiregrass


    WESLEY CHAPEL — Irish 31 Pub House & Eatery opened its fifth location at The Shops at Wiregrass earlier this month.

    hillsevbiz072117: Irish 31 has opened at the Shops at Wiregrass with a warm, wood decor. Photo courtesy of Irish 31.
  2. Family fun featured at Lutz-area ice cream shop


    LUTZ — For Joe Schembri, ice cream reminds him of fun times he spent with his family as a child.

    hillsevbiz072117: Joe Schembri has opened the Ice Dreamery in Lutz. Photo courtesy of Joe Schembri.
  3. Clean Eatz offers low-cal options in South Tampa


    Inside Clean Eatz, almost everything is under 500 calories.

    Clean Eatz will offer healthy dining options in South Tampa. Photo courtesy of Clean Eatz.
  4. Salon brings a Parisian experience to Tampa


    A new salon in International Plaza, opened by French women Geraldine Jousseau and Estelle Mattingly, takes clients on a trip to Paris.

    Le Studio Paris offers a variety of salon services in International Plaza. Photo courtesy of Le Studio Paris.
  5. Ratings service Nielsen begins tracking live TV consumption on Hulu, YouTube


    TV ratings service Nielsen will begin tracking how many people watch network TV on YouTube and Hulu to gauge how many viewers broadcast networks have through streaming, the company announced Tuesday.

    Nielsen, a ratings company, is monitoring how many viewers watch live TV on Hulu and YouTube to get a better sense of overall viewership. | [AP]