Make us your home page
Instagram

Trigaux: Keen to preserve own power, Florida electric utilities up fight against solar

Got to hand it to the powers who so deftly control Florida's electricity market.

Just when solar power finally shows signs of progress in the Sunshine State, the cabal of electric utility monopolies and the Tallahassee political machine so beholden to their cash contributions find a new way to say No.

On Wednesday, a group with the quick-stamped name of Consumers for Smart Solar unveiled a petition drive to place an amendment dealing with solar energy on the 2016 ballot. It will need to collect nearly 700,000 signatures.

This effort is clearly meant to distract and disrupt an existing amendment drive by a group called Floridians for Solar Choice. Its goal: to prevent the state from regulating small, private solar companies that provide up to 2 megawatts of solar energy to properties that border them.

Neither of these extreme efforts to amend the state constitution would be happening if big power companies like Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light were not so obsessed with maintaining their power grip, both on Florida's electricity market and the state's political bodies that pander to big utilities.

The very power companies that for years insisted that solar power has no future in this "cloudy" state have been forced to adopt new strategies now that solar is on the rise.

We like solar power, utility execs now purr. But only on our terms.

Well, those terms are crummy terms for Floridians. To undermine the progress of Floridians for Solar Choice's pursuit of a pro-solar state amendment, the power industry's helped unleash a second group Wednesday that seeks its own amendment. What's in that amendment? Very little to advance solar power. But plenty to make sure it stays under the thumb of the electric monopolies.

If this column was about House of Cards-inspired political shenanigans, I'd salute the ruthless cleverness of a second "consumer" group seeking its own amendment.

Persuading Florida voters to support any constitutional amendment is hard. Demanding that voters pick between solar amendments that sound pro-consumer is a great way to make sure neither happens.

Presto: Status quo preserved!

I could write a nearly identical column about how big power companies and their Tally allies are lobbying the Florida Supreme Court to block the Floridians for Solar Choice initiative from ever making it to the 2016 ballot.

Such manipulation would not be so sad if our utilities spent less time in denial.

Alternative energy, including solar power, is gaining global ground every day.

But in sunny Florida, utilities still exert the greatest energy and keenest focus on (1) self-preservation, (2) maximizing shareholder profits for Wall Street investors and (3) ensuring Florida's political leaders — from Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi to top legislators and the handpicked minions who pretend to run the Public Service Commission — remain deep, dark and content in the pocket of the status quo.

Contact Robert Trigaux at rtrigaux@tampabay.com.

Trigaux: Keen to preserve own power, Florida electric utilities up fight against solar 07/15/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 15, 2015 9:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.

  2. Sen. Nelson urges FEMA to examine high number of denied flood claims

    Banking

    Sen. Bill Nelson urged FEMA on Tuesday to ensure fairness, proper oversight and transparency in processing Hurricane Irma aid following a report by the Palm Beach Post that 90 percent of Irma claims under the National Flood Insurance Program had been denied.

    Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for FEMA to ensure the flood claims process post-Hurricane Irma is fair and ethical following reports that 90 percent of claims under the National Flood Insurance Program were denied. | [Times file photo]
  3. Amazon expands in Tampa with Pop-Up shop in International Plaza

    Retail

    TAMPA — A new retailer known largely for its online presence has popped up at International Plaza and Bay Street.

    Shoppers walk past the new Amazon kiosk Tuesday at the International Plaza in Tampa. The kiosk, which opened last month, offers shoppers an opportunity to touch and play with some of the products that Amazon offers.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]

  4. Study: Florida has fourth-most competitive tax code

    Banking

    Florida's tax code is the fourth most competitive in the country, according to a study released Tuesday by nonprofit group Tax Foundation.

    Florida has the fourth-most competitive tax code, a study by the Tax Foundation said. Pictured is  Riley Holmes, III, H&R Block tax specialist, helping a client with their tax return in April. | [SCOTT KEELER, Times]
  5. Trigaux: On new Forbes 400 list of U.S. billionaires, 35 now call Florida their home

    Personal Finance

    The latest Forbes 400 richest people in America was unveiled Tuesday, with 35 billionaires on that list calling Florida home. That's actually down from 40 Florida billionaires listed last year when a full 10 percent listed declared they were Floridians by residence.

    Edward DeBartolo, Jr., shopping center developer and  former San Francisco 49ers Owner, posed with his bronze bust last year during the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony in Canton, Ohio. DeBartolo remains the wealthiest person in Tampa Bay according to the Forbes 400 list released Tuesday. 
[Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]