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. Lower energy conservation goals will protect ratepayers, utilities tell PSC


    TALLAHASSEE — It might seem a stretch, but Florida utilities this week billed themselves as a friend of the poor and the common man.

    As such, they pressed the state Public Service Commission over the past three days to abandon a pilot program that offered rebates for residential and commercial solar panels that they argued benefit a few at the expense of the many. And they said they are designing efficiency programs to guard against consumers known as "free riders," who take advantage of energy-saving programs that they already would pursue without inducements from utilities....

  2. Protest, ad campaign target proposals to cut Florida's conservation goals


    TALLAHASSEE — In a rare scene at state regulatory hearings, more than 100 protesters from across the state gathered outside the Public Service Commission on Monday to oppose proposals by Florida's utilities to reduce their energy conservation goals.

    Chanting "Clean Energy Now!" and waving placards calling for more solar power and energy efficiency, the protesters criticized the commission for refusing to allow them to speak during hearings on the utilities' proposals....

    From left, Christina Bronson of St. Petersburg, Pat Thomas of Tallahassee and Anya Stojek of Lehigh Acres join protesters gathered Monday outside the Public Service Commission office at state regulatory hearings in Tallahassee.
  3. Utilities will ask PSC for permission to gut energy-saving goals


    Florida's big public utilities spend very little on energy conservation. On Monday, they will ask state regulators for permission to spend even less.

    The state's energy future depends almost exclusively on construction of expensive new power plants, the utilities argued in preparation for the Public Service Commission hearing and in their previous public statements.

    The utilities see little merit in any other strategy....

    Florida's largest electric utilities say energy-saving programs are not cost efficient and solar power is not reliable. They say the solution for the state's energy needs is building more power plants.
  4. Consumer advocate seeks $54 million refund for Duke Energy customers


    Florida's consumer advocate wants Duke Energy to refund $54 million the utility collected from its customers to purchase parts for the now-canceled Levy County nuclear project.

    The state Office of Public Counsel filed a request with the Public Service Commission on Wednesday, asking regulators to require Duke to refund the money.

    The public counsel's request is tied to a lawsuit Duke filed against the contractor of the $24.7 billion Levy project, Westinghouse Electric Co....

  5. Duke Energy to hold open house about proposed Crystal River natural gas plant


    Duke Energy Florida plans to hold a free open house July 10 for the public to receive information about the proposed natural gas plant the utility wants to build in Citrus County.

    The informal presentation will run from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Plantation on Crystal River Magnolia Room, 9301 W. Fort Island Trail in Crystal River. Experts will be on hand to answer questions about the $1.5 billion project and the combined-cycle natural gas technology proposed for the plant....

  6. 'A small number' of Bright House customers experience email disruption


    Bright House Networks and its owner, Time Warner, are experiencing problems with the service, preventing some customers from accessing their email.

    Joe Durkin, a Bright House spokesman, said "it's a small number of customers" that have been affected for at least the last two days. He said the national Road Runner email system has been affected by the problem, which the company expected to fix by Friday afternoon....

  7. SunTrust bank agrees to pay $300,000 to settle sexual harassment lawsuit


    SunTrust bank has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by three female employees against a manager at a Tampa Bay area branch.

    According to the lawsuits filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the manager of a Sarasota branch repeatedly subjected the women to verbal and physical harassment.

    The alleged incidents involving the manager included trapping a 20-year-old female behind the teller counter with his body; telling a woman she should wear a bathing suit to work; regularly staring at women's breasts; and frequently caressing and grabbing a female employee....

    SunTrust bank has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by three female employees against a manager at a Tampa Bay area branch. [Times files (2011)]
  8. Real estate financing firm looks to cut 80 percent of electric bill with solar, energy efficiency


    TAMPA — Four years ago, Doug McCree couldn't imagine fulfilling his employees' wishes for covered parking.

    But when a business associate prodded him to explore putting a solar canopy over the parking lot, wishful thinking turned hopeful. Solar developers proposed a plan combined with energy efficiency measures that would reduce the company's electric bill by more than 80 percent.

    On Monday, McCree, the president and CEO of First Housing Development Corp. of Florida, fired up a new solar and net zero energy system on its 17,000-square-foot, 8-year-old facility at 107 S Willow Ave....

    First Housing Development Corp. of Florida turned its Tampa building into a net zero energy building with solar panels, air conditioning monitoring system and LED bulbs. The project is expected to reduce its annual electric bill from $36,000 to $6,000.
  9. Tampa Electric customers could see higher bills with proposed new EPA emissions standards


    Tampa Electric customers could see higher electric bills under the proposed federal emission standards for coal-fired power plants, which produced 60 percent of the utility's power in 2013.

    The utility already uses several technologies to cut carbon emissions at its coal plants. Still, it expects to have to make changes in its operations that will affect the pocketbooks of its 700,000 customers. ...

    Smoke and steam rise out of the stacks at Tampa Electric Company’s Big Bend Station. The utility has a higher dependence on coal than Duke Energy Florida or Florida Power & Light.
  10. Former Duke worker seeks class-action against the utility for alleged failure to pay overtime


    A former Duke Energy Florida employee wants a Pinellas County Circuit Court judge to approve a class-action case against the utility for allegedly failing to pay overtime to hourly workers.

    The lawsuit was filed by Janet Farnham, who was hired to work for the utility from January 2012 to April 2014 through Allied Staff Augmentation Partners Inc., a Charlotte, N.C., firm.

    Farnham alleges Duke and Allied Staff, which also is named as a defendant in the suit, "had a policy and practice of requiring (Farnham) and similarly situated employees to work in excess of forty (40) hours each work week without paying them wages and/or overtime compensation as required by the (Fair Labor Standards Act of 1928)."...

  11. Perspective: Solar power is on the rise


    Jim Fenton runs the Florida Solar Energy Center.

    He's the state's point man on all things solar. The center, created by the Legislature in 1975 and operated at the University of Central Florida, is responsible for conducting research, testing and certifying solar systems used in the state.

    To hear Fenton talk about solar, it would seem a no-brainer that the state should invest more in the technology and allow consumers the opportunity to put solar on buildings with the abundance of flat roofs. Florida imports virtually all of its fuel, some $50 billion a year that goes out of state. The sun, Fenton and others say, offers enormous economic potential for the Sunshine State but here's the rub: Florida's utilities say the solar isn't economically feasible, can't provide electricity at night and is weakened when it's cloudy or rains....

    Polypack, a Pinellas Park manufacturer of shrink-wrap machines, installed a solar system that cut the electric bill from about $4,800 to $300 in April. The company owner also owns the collection in the adjacent Tampa Bay Automobile Museum.
  12. Balbis will not seek reappointment to PSC


    State Public Service Commissioner Eduardo Balbis has announced that he will not seek reappointment to the post he has held since 2010.

    In a letter dated Monday to the Florida Public Service Nominating Council, Balbis said he had decided to pursue "challenges in other arenas after the expiration my current term."

    "Although there are more challenges ahead for the commission, I am confident I am leaving the commission in a better state than when I arrived," wrote Balbis, 41. "While my fellow commissioners and I have not always agreed on every issue, we always conducted ourselves in a collegial, professional manner."...

    Eduardo Balbis’ four-year term expires Jan. 1, 2015.
  13. Great Bay Distributors to top its new building with state's largest private solar array


    Pinellas County's Great Bay Distributors is building the largest private solar system in the state.

    The 1.5-megawatt solar array will be part of the beverage distributors' massive new facility under construction just south of the Val-Pak building off Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg. The facility and the array should be ready in February.

    The bottom line: The economics work, said Ron Petrini, president of Great Bay, Florida's largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products. The company expects to reduce its electric bill by as much as 40 percent....

    Tampa Bay’s Great Bay Distributors will have the largest private solar system in the state at the beverage distributors’ massive new facility under construction just south of the Val-Pak building off of Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg.
  14. Duke to seek state regulator approval for new power plants


    Duke Energy Florida plans to make its formal request to state regulators on May 27 to build a $1.5 billion natural gas plant in Crystal River that will help replace plants the utility has already closed or soon will retire.

    Duke wants to build the 1,640 megawatt plant on a 400-acre tract near the Crystal River power complex off U.S. 19. Construction would begin in 2016 with half of the facility's power coming online in spring 2018 and the remainder about six months later....

  15. Odyssey Marine Exploration reports net loss for first quarter


    Tampa treasure hunting firm Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. reported a net loss during the first quarter of 2014, largely attributed to increases in expenses and a drop in exhibit and product sales.

    Odyssey reported earnings of $600,000 in the first quarter, down from $900,000 for the same period a year ago. Operations and research expenses in the first quarter of 2014 reached $7.1 million. That's up from $5.7 million in the first quarter of 2013....