Thursday, June 21, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Take down barriers to solar

Florida legislators addicted to campaign contributions by the electric utilities are parroting the industry line that solar power is too expensive and unreliable to count on as a significant energy source. Yet the business community is saving money and reducing carbon emissions by making major investments in solar despite the lack of direction or support from the state. Once again the private sector is ahead of state government, and Florida's next governor should provide stronger leadership with a vigorous renewable energy policy that does more than protect the utilities.

Pinellas County's Great Bay Distributors has announced it will build a 1.5-megawatt solar array at its massive new facility off Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg, which will be the largest private solar system in the state. The $2.6 million system will pay for itself in six years, thanks to help from federal tax credits, and it will cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 44,000 tons over its 30-year life cycle. Great Bay, the largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products in Florida, also expects to reduce its electric bill by as much as 40 percent. No wonder the big utilities feel threatened.

Great Bay is going big on an idea that is catching on across the state. Falling prices on solar panels and improvements to technology have made solar a more affordable option. Pinellas Park manufacturer Polypack installed solar last year (about one-fifth the size of Great Bay's) that cut its electricity bill from $4,800 to $212 in March. The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System facility in Pinellas is saving $189,000 a year in electric costs with a solar system it installed in 2012. And as the Tampa Bay Times' Ivan Penn reports in an article published today, falling prices for solar and upgrades in battery storage and other key components could change the economics even more dramatically in the near future.

This all is happening, of course, with no leadership from Tallahassee. Florida created a solar energy rebate program in 2006, but it killed the incentives when they became too popular. This year, lawmakers weakened the state's focus on solar — in the same bill where they called for "identifying barriers to greater use of renewable energy." This double-speak is one reason why Florida, which renewable energy advocates say has the third-largest potential for rooftop solar generation in the nation, ranks 18th among states in solar installation. More than two dozen states have stronger energy-efficiency programs than Florida. Business leaders working to develop solar in the state complained to a Senate committee during the legislative session that the market is so suppressed they are leaving for other states.

The barriers to solar are clear: Florida's political leaders are more worried about protecting the utilities' monopoly control over power generation than they are about encouraging renewable energy. State law, for example, allows only utilities to sell power directly to consumers. That means the owner of a mall could not install solar on the roof and sell that power to the tenants. Any excess power can be sold to the power company — but only at the wholesale price, and only the power company can resell that energy to a third party.

The next governor should seize the opportunity that solar presents to create jobs, reduce prices for consumers and businesses, cut carbon pollution and diversify and stabilize the state's energy mix. The federal tax credit, which expires in 2016, is a helpful tool the state can piggyback on to craft broader incentives to meet the solar market. State leaders are clearly behind the business community in recognizing the practical future for solar and the role the Sunshine State can and should play in capitalizing on a new industrial market and a more sustainable way of life. This is a pocketbook concern on both ends, involving job creation and the cost of living, and it needs to be a defining issue in this year's governor's race.

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Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18