Ivan Penn, Times Staff Writer

Ivan Penn

A native of Washington, D.C., Ivan Penn joined the Times in July 2006 after more than 12 years with the Baltimore Sun. Penn covers utilities, energy and consumer issues as part of the Times' business team. He is married and has three children.

Phone: (727) 892-2332

Email: ipenn@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Consumers_Edge

  1. Duke Energy Florida irks churches, businesses with unnecessarily high bills


    First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks wasn't saving as much as it could.

    This wasn't about souls. It was about something more earthly: electric bills and money.

    The trouble was Duke Energy Florida and its predecessors kept the church on a higher rate than necessary, as the utility has with many of its other business customers. In addition, some churches such as First Baptist and other nonprofits have been charged taxes, though they are tax-exempt....

    JC Ryan’s Image First health care laundry business has been saving $700 to $800 a month in electric costs since April after a consultant found it could get a better rate from Duke Energy.
  2. Tea party pushing for Florida to step up solar energy efforts


    Florida's investor-owned utilities have a new, unexpected opponent: the tea party.

    Debbie Dooley, co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party and national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, plans to push for more solar in the Sunshine State as she has in Georgia. Her ultimate goal is to challenge the monopoly control of Florida's major utilities.

    This month, the Georgia resident launched the group Conservatives for Energy Freedom, with the first chapter in Florida. ...

    Debbie Dooley says Republicans should be leading the way for solar energy in Florida.
  3. Lawmaker proposes legislation to ensure businesses receive cheapest utility rate


    Duke Energy Florida's non-residential customers don't always get the rate that will result in the cheapest bill.

    Businesses can choose a rate based in part on the time of day the company uses the most electricity.

    Experts in utility rate-making say some Duke business customers — including churches — don't realize they can get their electricity for less, and Duke doesn't automatically give the cheapest rate....

    Dwight Dudley wants “greater ethics” from Duke Energy.
  4. Protesters call on Gov. Rick Scott to return $1.2 million in campaign donations from Duke Energy


    Standing with a giant caricature posing as Gov. Rick Scott, about a four-dozen protesters gathered outside the governor’s St. Petersburg campaign office and called on him to return $1.2 million in donations from Duke Energy.

    The group, led by billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate political committee, called the donations to Scott “dirty money” that they aruge was wrongfully taken from Duke ratepayers for nuclear projects that never materialized....

    A billboard asking for the return of Duke campaign donations.
  5. Report: Florida has one of highest cellphone tax rates in the U.S.


    Florida is one of the five states in the nation with the highest cellphone taxes, according to a report released Wednesday.

    The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C., think tank that has been largely backed by conservatives, listed the Sunshine State fourth in federal, state and local taxes and fees for wireless service with a rate of 22.38 percent.

    Washington state led the list with a tax rate of 24.42 percent, followed by Nebraska at 24.31 percent and New York at 23.56 percent. Illinois rounded out the top five at 21.63 percent....

  6. Thousands of the Sunshine State's clean energy jobs at risk


    Tens of thousands of Florida's clean energy jobs could be at risk if state regulators approve proposals by investor-owned utilities to gut their energy savings goals.

    A new report set for release today, dubbed "Clean Jobs Florida," found that Florida employs about 75,000 in the energy efficiency field, which ranges from LED bulbs to solar hot water heaters. That could make the clean energy sector vulnerable if cuts are approved....

    Florida ranks No. 3 in the nation for solar energy potential and could generate 25 times its current electricity needs with clean, renewable sources. [Times files (2010)]
  7. PSC orders Duke to refund $54 million to customers


    TALLAHASSEE — In the face of growing public outcry, state regulators on Thursday ordered Duke Energy Florida to credit $54 million to customers for nuclear equipment that was never produced for the now canceled Levy County nuclear plant.

    The decision was an unusual move by the Public Service Commission in that the panel went against its staff, which opposed the refund.

    In what was a momentous day for the commission, the PSC also approved Duke's plan to build a $1.5 billion natural gas plant in Citrus County that would come online in 2018....

    Duke had expected to produce more than 3,000 megawatts of power after upgrades to the Crystal River nuclear power plant in Citrus County and building a pair of reactors in Levy County.
  8. Jack Latvala and other lawmakers have strong words for Duke Energy


    Lawmakers fired some of their harshest criticism at Duke Energy Florida on Tuesday, promising legislation that could ban political contributions from utilities and end some "unconscionable" billing practices.

    Led by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, Pinellas County's most powerful legislator, several Republican lawmakers and political candidates gathered for a news conference at a Sonny's Bar-B-Q in Largo to highlight what they said was the latest example of abuse by Duke....

    Sen. Jack Latvala says he would consider including a ban on political contributions from utilities in legislation that he plans to introduce.
  9. Duke Energy Florida under increasing fire during pivotal week


    In a pivotal week for Duke Energy Florida, state lawmakers are targeting the utility with a series of proposals to bolster consumer protection and prevent unbridled spending of ratepayer dollars.

    State Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, on Monday announced the latest effort that would end the increasingly controversial "nuclear advance fee" that allows utilities to collect from ratepayers for new plants before they produce power....

    State Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, wants to end the “nuclear advance fee” and eliminate the potential for another billing problem.
  10. Senator wants $54 million credited to Duke Energy customers, threatens legislation


    Tampa Bay area lawmakers urged state regulators Friday to order a $54 million credit to Duke Energy Florida customers for nuclear components the utility bought for the canceled Levy County nuclear plant that were never produced.

    In a letter to the Public Service Commission, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said any delay in returning the money to customers as requested by consumer advocates is "unacceptable."...

    “PSC has served as little more than a rubber stamp for the investor-owned utilities.”
Dwight Dudley, 
D-St. Petersburg
  11. PSC staff sides with Duke in recommending against $54 million credit for customers


    Consumer advocates thought it was a just action on the part of state regulators: Order Duke Energy Florida to refund customers $54 million for nuclear components the utility bought for the canceled Levy County nuclear plant that were never produced.

    It's a small portion of the $1.5 billion that angry customers are paying for the defunct project, but a credit nonetheless.

    Duke wants customers to get the credit — but only if the company can win back the money in a lawsuit against the contractor. Until then, Duke says, regulators should not take any action....

  12. Crystal River nuclear plant tools and equipment go for 'pennies on the dollar' at auction


    CRYSTAL RIVER — Ross Dove begins the bidding just after 10 a.m.

    "It is the appointed hour," Dove announces. "The assets are formally on the auction block."

    One million items in more than 3,000 lots. Total value, according to Duke Energy Florida: $100 million.

    The products — including a Micro Vu Optical Comparator and Digital Thermocouples — would be a mystery, and of no use, to most of the utility's 1.7 million customers. But they paid for them all and have a financial interest in the outcome....

    Andrew Yonke takes notes on the contents of some of the items that are up for auction as part of the Global Webcast Auction. Thousands of items from the Duke Energy Crystal River nuclear plant are being sold.
  13. Duke Energy plans to help on L.A. wind farm project — but what about Florida?


    Duke Energy announced plans Tuesday for the nation's largest wind farm and energy storage system in the western United States, prompting questions about whether the utility should offer major clean energy projects in Florida and the East Coast.

    Duke-American Transmission, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, would join three other companies to create the $8 billion project that would produce twice as much electricity as the Hoover Dam. The system would power 1.2 million homes in the Los Angeles area by 2023 if federal, state and local regulators approve the project....

    This wind farm sits on a bluff above Wallula in southern Washington state near the Columbia River. Could a wind project be in Florida's future? [Steve Ringman/Seattle Times/MCT]
  14. Duke Energy set to auction off a million items from shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant


    It's one of the most unusual auctions of the year, akin to putting a nuclear plant on eBay.

    Duke Energy Florida plans to sell 1 million items from the shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant live and online from Wednesday to Friday next week.

    Need a giant heat exchanger that looks like giant pipes aboard a Navy ship — large enough for a grown man to crawl through?

    How about 3-ton chain hoist? Or a 30-foot, 120,000-pound trailer?...

    Duke Energy is selling off parts — everything from giant heat exchangers like this to a set of everyday wrenches — from its failed nuclear plant in Crystal River.
  15. Gov. Scott names appointments to fill two openings on Public Service Commission


    Gov. Rick Scott announced his two picks for open seats on the state Public Service Commission on Thursday, including one reappointment of a Tampa lawyer.

    The Senate still must confirm the appointments of existing Commissioner Julie Brown, 39, who first joined the PSC in 2011, and state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, 42, of Panama City, who is vice president of Captain Anderson's Restaurant.

    Patronis would fill a seat vacated by Eduardo Balbis, who announced in May that he would not seek reappointment....