Make us your home page
Instagram

Romano: The Koch brothers say solar energy will flop; Georgia says they're wrong

Entrenched energy companies and their supporters are fighting hard to keep solar energy from hitting the mainstream in Florida, using messages and raising concerns that have been discredited in Georgia.

iStockphoto.com

Entrenched energy companies and their supporters are fighting hard to keep solar energy from hitting the mainstream in Florida, using messages and raising concerns that have been discredited in Georgia.

He'd heard the accusations before, in another time and place.

Support solar energy, and you will support higher electric bills. Less reliability. More tax subsidies and unwanted government interference.

This is what the critics said in Georgia in 2013, and they're saying it again in Florida today.

"Total foolishness," Georgia Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald said Wednesday. "We have no state subsidies, and there has been no upward pressure on rates. If anything, it's held down the cost of fuel.

"They can come down to Florida and blow all the smoke they want, but don't you believe it. I initiated this in 2013, and I had no problem getting through a primary and general election in 2014. What does that tell you about how solar energy is working in Georgia?"

Consider this an early warning shot in a solar energy battle that may soon take center stage around here.

Governors and lawmakers in Florida have been so deep in the pockets of power companies, they have allowed the Sunshine State to lag behind a dozen others in the use of solar energy.

That's why a group called Floridians for Solar Choice is working to have a constitutional amendment placed on the 2016 ballot that would effectively eliminate an arcane state law that forbids anyone other than a utility company to sell energy.

By the time you finish reading this, solar backers may already have enough certified signatures to trigger a state Supreme Court review of the ballot language.

Just don't get the idea this will be a smooth process.

Americans for Prosperity, founded by the oil-rich Koch brothers, held a news conference in Tallahassee last week to warn citizens about … well, I'm not sure about what.

They did not specifically take a stand against the constitutional amendment. And they did not specifically say solar energy was a bad idea. They just sort of threw out vague notions of subsidies, mandates and male pattern baldness.

And then, earlier this week, the Florida Faith & Freedom Coalition asked solar backers to clarify and strengthen the language of the proposed amendment to specifically rule out subsidies.

Since the amendment has nothing to do with subsidies, there's a pretty good chance this might be a red herring.

"These arguments are absolutely, 100 percent, ridiculous falsehoods," said Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice. "Any individual who reads the amendment can see there is no mention of subsidies or mandates."

So what is this really about?

Well, you might want to consider the possibility that power companies in Florida aren't thrilled with the idea of competition. And this amendment would invite that possibility.

Basically, the amendment would allow a solar company — or anyone wanting to invest in the industry — to provide solar energy to businesses or homeowners.

And that means Publix or Walmart — or your neighbor Rob — could use solar energy without the hassle of installing, operating or maintaining it themselves.

When Georgia was considering an expansion into solar energy two years ago, an Americans for Prosperity representative warned that electric rates would soar by 40 percent and power outages would be common. Turns out, that hasn't happened.

Critics warn the amendment will lead to government mandates and an unfair advantage for solar energy. In reality, the amendment would eliminate a government regulation that gives utility companies complete control of the industry in Florida.

"They lie because they're desperate," said Susan Glickman, the Florida director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "It's threatening their sweetheart deal."

The bell is about to ring, the fight is about to begin.

Feel free to choose your heroes and villains.

Romano: The Koch brothers say solar energy will flop; Georgia says they're wrong 03/18/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 18, 2015 10:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. New town homes sprouting in Oldsmar

    Real Estate

    BY PIPER CASTILLO

    Times Staff Writer

    OLDSMAR — City officials have been chipping away for several years on a downtown development plan, bringing new life to a 7-acre site on State Street. One day in the not-far-off future, they want to lively streets and walkways used by residents and …

  2. Study: Tampa Bay a top market for homebuyers on the move

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, ATTOM Data Solutions says.

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, a survey found.
[Associated Press file photo]
  3. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  4. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA

    Airlines

    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  5. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants the Constitu?tion Revision Commis?sion to ask voters to repeal the state’s system of partial financing of statewide elections.