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Government leaders urge Duke to invest in solar, energy efficiency

Published Apr. 23, 2014

More than two dozen local, state and federal officials called on Duke Energy to make solar and energy efficiency bigger priorities in the delivery of electricity.

In a two-page letter delivered Tuesday to Duke Energy Florida president Alex Glenn, the government leaders urged the utility to invest in clean-energy technologies as a way to help bolster Florida's economy.

The letter noted that 26 states have stronger energy-efficiency programs than Florida. The Sunshine State also ranks 16th, behind the likes of New Jersey, in solar installations.

The group included U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa; state Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg; the mayors of St. Petersburg, Gulfport, Largo and Safety Harbor; the vice mayor of Belleair Bluffs; all but one member of the St. Petersburg City Council; three Pinellas County Commission members and one Hernando commissioner; as well as several commissioners and council members from Gulfport, Largo and Safety Harbor.

"As public officials, we are writing to express our support for clean energy and urge your company to deepen its investment in energy efficiency and solar power in Florida," the letter stated.

Nicole LeBeau, a Duke spokeswoman, said Duke received the letter and is reviewing it. She said the utility would prepare a response.

The letter was announced during a press conference Tuesday in St. Petersburg's Williams Park, across the street from Duke's Florida headquarters.

St. Petersburg City Council member Karl Nurse said that on a recent trip to North Carolina, he found several promotions by the utility in support of energy efficiency and solar. "Duke is making twice the effort in North Carolina," Nurse said.

Said Gulfport Council member Yolanda Roman: "Supporting clean energy shouldn't be that difficult. We need to invest in the health and welfare of our citizens."

The event is part of an on-going effort led by the Sierra Club and a group that has dubbed itself the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition, more than 25 business, faith, labor, consumer, public health and environmental organizations.

Tuesday's announcement drew a crowd of about 50 in support of the effort.

"Our message is really not about bashing Duke," said Frank Jackalone, staff director for the Sierra Club. "All we're asking … empower us to do more to bring more energy efficiency and solar."

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332.

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