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. Protesters bring 'pitchfork protest' to Duke Energy Florida's headquarters


    ST. PETERSBURG — With both real and toy pitchforks, a crowd of about 150 vented their frustration with Duke Energy Florida on Wednesday in a park just yards from the utility's downtown headquarters.

    The "Pitchfork Protest" in Williams Park drew one of the largest gatherings to date against Duke for failed nuclear ambitions that are costing its customers billions of dollars; lack of support for rooftop solar power; billing mishaps; and overcharges of churches and small businesses....

    A pitchfork is hoisted towards the Duke Energy head quarters during the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy's pitchfork protest in downtown St. Petersburg.
  2. Duke Energy, Southern Alliance tighten security ahead of 'Pitchfork Protest'


    Concerned about security at a "Pitchfork Protest" planned for Wednesday outside Duke Energy Florida headquarters, the utility and the event's organizers have hired off-duty police officers to oversee safety.

    The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a Tennessee-based nonprofit environmental organization, hopes to bring hundreds to protest Duke's treatment of its customers in recent years.

    Protesters plan to wield pitchforks and torches like it's 1785....

  3. Crowd turns out to protest Duke billing practices


    NEW PORT RICHEY — More than 100 Duke Energy Florida customers turned out to a town hall meeting Thursday, asking how to best challenge the utility that changed billing cycles and charged them for a nuclear plant that never came.

    Focus on the Legislature, said two former state senators.

    "Shame on all of you if you don't, between now and the next legislative session, if you don't make an appointment to go see your legislator," said former state Sen. Mike Fasano, now the Pasco County tax collector....

  4. Regulators approve cut in Tampa Electric rates


    State regulators approved requests by Tampa Electric to lower its residential customers' rates by an average of $1.14 to $108.47 for 1,000 kilowatt-hours beginning Jan. 1.

    Commercial and industrial customers' rates will drop by 1.7 percent and 3 percent, respectively, under the proposals approved by the Public Service Commission.

    Tampa Electric, a subsidiary of TECO Energy, sought a decrease in its rates as a result of lower fuel and other electricity production costs....

  5. Group offers cash, free dinner to Duke Energy protesters


    Still hoping for a refund from Duke Energy Florida for the $3.45 its customers pay each month for a nuclear plant the utility decided not to build?

    Don't expect Duke to fork over the money.

    But the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is offering at least 500 Duke customers what the utility has not: Show your electric bill at a scheduled "pitchfork" protest at noon Oct. 29 outside the power company's St. Petersburg headquarters and get $3.45 or a free box lunch....

    Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano
  6. TECO Energy announces agreement to sell its coal mining operations


    Tampa-based TECO Energy announced an agreement Monday to sell its coal subsidiary in a $170 million deal that is expected to close by the end of the year.

    TECO, the parent company of Tampa Electric, said Cambrian Coal Corp. agreed to purchase the coal operation, which includes coal production facilities in Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

    Cambrian is part of the Booth Energy Group, a company that produces coal using the underground and surface mining methods in the central Appalachia coal fields of Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia....

    CEO John Ramil says the sale will complete TECO’s return to its core businesses.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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....

  12. 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)]
  13. 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 have more than 3,000 megawatts of power from the upgrades to the Crystal River nuclear power plant in Citrus County and construction of a pair of new reactors in Levy County. But a botched upgrade of the Crystal River facility led Duke to permanently close the plant and soaring costs of the Levy nuclear plant led the utility to cancel that project. [MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times (2013)]
  14. 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....

    Duke has been collecting $3.2 billion from its 1.7 million Florida customers for two failed nuclear projects with much of the money paid through the "nuclear advance fee''. [CHERIE DIEZ | Times]
  15. 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....

    Duke has been collecting $3.2 billion from its 1.7 million Florida customers for two failed nuclear projects with much of the money paid through the "nuclear advance fee''. [CHERIE DIEZ | Times]