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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


Twitter: @Consumers_Edge

  1. Utilities change their tune on solar power


    Just two years ago, the president of Duke Energy Florida said the Sunshine State had too many clouds for solar power to be effective.

    But since early this year, Alex Glenn, the Duke Florida president, has touted one solar project after another, with promises of up to 500 megawatts over the next 10 years — more than twice the state's current solar capacity.

    Last week, for instance, Duke announced plans for about 1 percent of its goal with 48,000 panels laid out in a Disney-themed design near Orlando. That followed a solar power event filled with great fanfare, including a set of Tesla electric cars, a week earlier at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. ...

    Alex Glenn, Duke Energy Florida president, says the company’s interest in solar power is based on the falling price of solar panels and storage systems, not a ballot initiative seeking to deregulate solar power through a state constitutional amendment.   
  2. Duke Energy plans large solar power system near Orlando


    Solar power in the Sunshine State continues to heat up with an announcement Wednesday by Duke Energy Florida to build, own and operate a large solar facility near Orlando that will sport a Disney-themed design.

    Duke expects to begin construction on the 5-megawatt solar project by midsummer and have it in service by year's end. The solar power system will occupy 20 acres and serve the Reedy Creek Improvement District....

  3. Churches and businesses seek refunds from Duke Energy


    Duke Energy Florida acknowledges that some business customers — including churches — have been paying higher rates than necessary for years.

    However, the electric company has refused to refund the amount those customers over-paid.

    Duke's resistance has prompted almost two-dozen complaints to the state Public Service Commission within the last week as small businesses and churches fight to reclaim tens of thousands of dollars they say are due them....

    The Rev. Philip Lilly is executive pastor of the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, which is among those filing complaints with the PSC over refunds from Duke Energy for overpayments.
  4. Duke Energy, USF St. Petersburg to fire up $1 million solar panel system


    Duke Energy Florida announced Monday that it will power up a $1 million solar panel system at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg this week.

    The freestanding canopy solar system sits atop the campus' Fifth Avenue S parking garage. It will provide shade for parking spaces while generating electricity from the sun when Duke fires up the system during an event at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday....

  5. Financial study projects lower government revenues from solar initiative


    State and local government revenues from taxes and fees would decrease if a ballot initiative to open up Florida's solar market wins approval, though the specific impact remains unclear, according to a financial review of the proposal.

    The Financial Impact Estimating Conference on Thursday submitted its 18-page report to state Attorney General Pam Bondi, who will forward the review to the Florida Supreme Court. The report noted that state and local governments also would face additional costs from the initiative, though those expenses "will likely be minimal and partially offset by fees."...

  6. Amid protests, Duke Energy CEO tells shareholders she's 'proud' of utility


    Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good told shareholders Thursday that she was "proud" of her company, even as the utility emerged from a tumultuous year that included federal fines and a lawsuit settlement that ran into the hundreds of millions.

    Good said Duke has learned a lot from last year's coal ash spill that coated 70 miles of a North Carolina river in toxic sludge.

    In February, Duke agreed to pay $102 million to settle federal charges that it violated the Clean Water Act, following a 2014 coal ash spill that contaminated the Dan River in North Carolina....

    Debbie Hall of Sanford, N.C., holds a sign Thursday outside Duke Energy headquarters protesting coal ash ponds before the shareholders meeting in Charlotte, N.C. Duke agreed to a $102 million fine over its 2014 coal ash spill in the Dan River.
  7. Next stop for solar ballot petition: Florida Supreme Court


    A ballot petition that would allow those who generate electricity from the sun to sell the power directly to other consumers moved to its final legal hurdle Friday with a request by Florida's attorney general for Supreme Court review.

    Attorney General Pam Bondi stated in a letter to the court that the ballot title and summary meet basic requirements. But she also asked for the court's opinion on that matter....

  8. State regulators seek public comment to improve Florida's solar programs


    State regulators are seeking comments from the public about how to enhance and further develop Florida's solar power efforts.

    The state Public Service Commission said it wants information from individuals, business and utilities that helps address practical ways "to more effectively promote solar energy in Florida."

    "It makes sense to involve all stakeholders in gathering information on practical policies and programs to encourage solar energy," said PSC Chairman Art Graham. He said the commission has concluded that expensive pilot programs currently in place have yielded insufficient results....

  9. State regulators approve deal that will create largest solar project in Florida


    TALLAHASSEE — State regulators on Thursday approved a deal that will create Florida's largest solar project and provide power to the Sunshine State's smallest investor-owned utility.

    Gulf Power asked the state Public Service Commission to allow the utility to purchase power from three proposed solar plants under development by Gulf Coast Solar Center, a subsidiary of HelioSage LLC.

    The project includes solar photovoltaic plants totaling 120 megawatts at military bases in the Panhandle. ...

  10. PSC approves rate cut for Duke customers


    TALLAHASSEE — Duke Energy Florida customers will see their electric bills drop on average by $3.45 a month starting in May after state regulators on Thursday approved an end to charges related to the failed Levy County nuclear project.

    But the 1.7 million customers shouldn't get too comfortable with the extra change in their pockets.

    As early as Jan. 1, Duke plans to tack on charges related to the closing of the Crystal River nuclear plant. Those charges will reach $5 a month for the typical customer, unless the Legislature acts on a cost-reduction plan that would reduce the Crystal River customer fee to about $3. That would bring the net monthly savings to customers to 45 cents....

  11. Getting hired by Fintech makes workers feel like winners


    TAMPA – Fintech is the alcohol industry's PayPal. ¶ The financial services and data company handles billions in beer, wine and spirits sales payments for retailers and wholesalers. ¶ The company's customers include the likes of Trader Joe's and Publix Super Markets, Target and Walmart, Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International, Great Bay Distributors and Pepin Distributors. ¶ And Fintech made the Top Workplaces list for small businesses at No. 34....

    Fintech activation department manager  Alexis Hilton, Thursday, 3/5/15.  Fintech, is the leader in providing electronic data and payments to the alcohol industry.
  12. At ad agency 22squared, employees care for each other


    TAMPA – Walk into 22squared Inc., and a skater might whiz by on his board or a unicyclist on his lone wheel. Someone might race by on foot, too. It's part of the creative environment of one of the top five independent advertising agencies in the country, one that might seem a bit intense at first. A hustle. An excitement to tell a story about a company. But there's also a kind of feng shui culture that somehow blends the individual talents into a cohesive unit. "This place has a way, a natural way of rejecting egos," said Scott Sheinberg, the company's chief creative officer and general manager of the Tampa office. "We're all leaders," he said. "We hold ourselves to that standard ... In the wrong culture, it's about me."...

    Copy writer Luke Sokolewicz works in his office at 22squared in Tampa.
  13. Pharmaceutical consulting firm Xcenda focuses on employees


    PALM HARBOR – Over the past two decades, pharmaceutical consulting firm Xcenda grew from three employees in Palm Harbor to 325 across the United States. A little more than a quarter of that number work in the Tampa Bay area. Many work from home. ¶ Xcenda keeps acquiring space to accommodate the growth, including all or parts of three floors of its Palm Harbor headquarters in the 4000 block of Woodlands Parkway. ¶ The company also maintains offices in Washington, D.C.; Charlotte, N.C.; San Bruno, Calif.; and Hannover, Germany....

    Xcenda company president Brian Nightengale in his Palm Harbor office.  - Xcenda is a medical marketing company - a premier, full-service consultancy and leading managed markets agency for a top workplaces feature.
  14. Senate committee approves plan to save Duke Energy customers $600 million


    A state Senate committee voted Tuesday in favor of a proposal that would save Duke Energy Florida customers about $600 million on the cleanup of the Crystal River nuclear plant site.

    Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, offered the proposal as an amendment to a bill designed to reform the state Public Service Commission and improve utility billing practices.

    Latvala told members of the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee that Duke approached him about the proposal as a way to assuage consumer discontent after a series of mishaps that are costing customers billions of dollars....

  15. Duke Energy Florida proposes $600 million in savings for customers


    For the second time in a week, Duke Energy is moving to change its troubled image with Florida customers.

    The latest: a proposal by the utility to credit customers $600 million — or $2 to $3 per month for the average residential consumer.

    That proposal will be discussed at a hearing Tuesday before the state Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

    The proposal comes less than a week after Duke announced plans for construction of large-scale solar power plants as a bipartisan coalition pushes the Sunshine State to produce more of its electricity from the sun....

    Duke wants to change how expenses related to cleaning up the Crystal River nuclear plant are paid. [MAURICE RIVENBARK | Times (2013)]