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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

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  1. Florida utilities say solar doesn't work in the Sunshine State, but it sure does in Georgia

    Energy

    The Sunshine State is losing its shine to something peachy.

    While Florida energy policy impedes solar power development, Georgia promotes it: The Peach State, with a population half that of its neighbor to the south, expects to reach 900 megawatts of solar power generation by the end of 2016, almost twice Florida's projected total by that time.

    "Georgia is going to wind up being a state that everyone looks toward," said Ken Johnson, a vice president and spokesman for the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington, D.C. He said the reason why Georgia is emerging as a solar-power leader is that regulators and utilities have embraced solar as part of the solution for energy demand rather than rejecting it as not cost-effective....

    Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said Florida should be a leader in solar energy and filed a bill to spur businesses to embrace the technology.
  2. FPL proposes to almost double Florida's solar power by end of 2016

    Energy

    Florida's largest investor owned utility announced plans Monday to build three new solar farms that would nearly double the state's solar capacity.

    In its announcement, Florida Power & Light said it had found a "cost-effective" way to expand solar power in Florida and proposed to install the systems at three sites in its service area. The utility proposes to add 225 megawatts of solar to the state's current 229 megawatts by the end of next year in Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties....

    President Barack Obama, with DeSoto construction manager Greg Bove, center, and then-Florida Power and Light CEO Lewis Hay, tours the DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia in 2009. FPL plans to build three solar farms that would nearly double the state’s capacity.
  3. Odd coalition prepares to pressure lawmakers on solar power

    Energy

    Conservative solar proponents to Florida lawmakers: Where do you stand on support for rooftop solar?

    Grass roots Republicans said they intend to get lawmakers on the record about their positions on solar as part of a growing campaign of town hall talks and petitions for a ballot initiative to change Florida energy policy.

    The campaign seeks to loosen the investor owned utilities' monopoly grip on the state's electricity production. Solar proponents say the utilities' control over energy and their influence in Tallahassee is blocking development of solar in the Sunshine State and leaving consumers without choice....

  4. Lawmaker joins calls for repeal of nuclear advance fee with new bill

    Energy

    State Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, this week filed legislation to repeal the so-called nuclear advance fee that allowed Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light to collect money from their customers before new plants come online.

    Ahern's legislation is the third bill filed for the 2015 session aimed at ending the fee. The measure largely targets Duke Energy over its troubled nuclear operations detailed in reports by the Tampa Bay Times. ...

  5. Gulf Power, military propose state's largest network of solar power plants

    Energy

    Florida's smallest investor-owned utility is proposing to build the state's largest network of solar power plants as part of an agreement reached with the U.S. military.

    Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Georgia-based Southern Co., announced a proposal Thursday to build a total of 120 megawatts of utility-scale solar power at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Holley Field in Navarre and Saufley Field in Pensacola. The joint effort among Gulf Power, the Navy, Air Force and HelioSage, the project's developer, will help meet the U.S. Department of Defense's goal of achieving 25 percent renewable energy by 2025....

  6. Rep. Dwight Dudley files legislation to keep Florida utilities from charging customers for fracking investments

    Blog

    A bill filed in the state Legislature Tuesday would prohibit Florida utilities from charging customers for investment in fracking operations.

    Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, filed the measure in response to a recent ruling by the Florida Public Service Commission that will allow Florida Power & Light to collect $191 million from ratepayers to invest in an Oklahoma fracking project....

  7. Bill would prohibit Florida utilities from charging for fracking

    Energy

    A bill filed in the state Legislature Tuesday would prohibit Florida utilities from charging customers for investment in fracking operations.

    Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, filed the measure in response to a recent ruling by the Florida Public Service Commission that will allow Florida Power & Light to collect $191 million from ratepayers to invest in an Oklahoma fracking project.

    In March, the PSC will decide whether to allow FPL to expand the effort. Duke Energy has expressed interest in exploring similar proposals....

    Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, said that power companies only care about profit.
  8. Sen. Jeff Brandes files legislation to reduce taxes on solar power systems

    Blog

    A St. Petersburg lawmaker announced Tuesday the filing of a bill that would reduce the taxes on solar power systems for businesses that install them at their facilities.

    The legislation by State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would expand existing law for residential solar installations to include commercial property. The bill would reduce the real estate or personal property tax for solar installations and exempts devices that produce renewable energy from tangible property tax....

  9. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, files bill to reduce taxes on solar power systems

    Energy

    A St. Petersburg lawmaker announced Tuesday the filing of a bill that would reduce the taxes on solar power systems for businesses that install them at their facilities.

    The legislation, by Republican state Sen. Jeff Brandes, would expand existing law for residential solar installations to include commercial property. The bill would reduce the real estate or personal property tax for installations. In addition, devices that produce renewable energy would be exempt from tangible property tax....

    Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, says Florida needs to be a leader in the solar power industry.
  10. Businesses rank Duke Energy Florida last in satisfaction survey

    Energy

    Duke Energy Florida ranked last this week in a J.D. Power satisfaction survey of business customers in the South.

    Out of 11 power companies on the list for the region, Duke Energy Florida finished last — the same ranking the utility has had for the past three surveys.

    "These results are a clear indication that we need to do more to better understand and meet our customers' expectations, and we are committed to doing that," said Sterling Ivey, a Duke spokesman. ...

    A “pitchfork protest” was held by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy outside of Duke Energy Florida headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg on Oct. 29 protesting the utility’s billing practices.
  11. Florida solar power proponents launch PAC in push for electricity

    Energy

    TALLAHASSEE — A political action committee announced Wednesday by solar proponents is banking on support from an array of politically diverse groups in its push for more widespread use of the sun for electricity in the Sunshine State.

    Floridians for Solar Choice wants the state to allow homeowners and businesses to buy and sell solar power to one another, without going through utility companies. Unlike dozens of other states, it is illegal in Florida....

  12. Coalition of conservatives, liberals fight for more Florida solar power

    Blog

    Imagine the Christian Coalition and the tea party joining hands with liberals and environmentalists.

    Add to the Kumbaya moment Libertarians and Florida’s retail business federation.

    They all plan to unite this morning for a news conference in Tallahassee about their campaign to allow those in Florida who generate electricity from the sun to sell that power directly to other consumers. Right now, that’s illegal here....

  13. Coalition of conservatives, liberals fight for more Florida solar power

    Energy

    Imagine the Christian Coalition and the tea party joining hands with liberals and environmentalists.

    Add to the Kumbaya moment Libertarians and Florida's retail business federation.

    They all plan to unite this morning for a news conference in Tallahassee about their campaign to allow those in Florida who generate electricity from the sun to sell that power directly to other consumers. Right now, that's illegal here....

    Florida law now does
not allow those who generate electricity from the sun to sell that power directly to other consumers.
  14. Tampa Bay Downs group reaches deal to buy Tampa Greyhound

    Business

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Downs has reached an agreement to buy the Tampa Greyhound Track facility in what the horse track characterizes as a pre-emptive move.

    "We knew the property was for sale, and we had become somewhat nervous that a developer would go in there and close the simulcast operation," Downs general manager Peter Berube told the Daily Racing Form.

    "It's a big source of revenue for our purses, and what we've found is that when a simulcast facility closes, that handle just disappears."...

  15. Republican-led petition drive begins for 2016 ballot measure to boost solar power in Florida

    Blog

    Backers of broader use of solar energy in Florida have quietly launched a petition for the 2016 ballot that would allow those who generate electricity from the sun to sell the power directly to other consumers.

    If the measure passes, solar proponents argue that it would open up Florida's solar energy market, which has largely stagnated for years. The measure would allow business or property owners to produce up to 2 megawatts of solar power and then sell that power directly to others, such as tenants, without having to go through a utility....