Thursday, April 19, 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: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18