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Published on July 8th, 2014 | by James Ayre

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Florida Utilities Working To Crush Nascent Solar Industry

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July 8th, 2014 by
 
A coalition of Florida’s top electric utilities recently began grouping up with each other for the apparent intention of crushing the state’s still-nascent solar industry.

To be more specific, the utilities have begun working to crush the work of the solar advocacy group Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) — currently in the process of trying to sit in on some important Public Service Commission policy talks in Tallahassee and comment on the presentations.

Photo credit: Erman Akdogan / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)Photo Credit: Erman Akdogan / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Under Florida law, the Florida Public Service Commission is forced to hold regular policy meetings in order to come to a resolution on energy conservation and efficiency goals — solar and other renewable energy technologies are obviously included in this. TASC recently submitted (on June 10th) a petition to intervene on one of these meetings.

The Broward/Palm Beach New Times provides more:

This isn’t the first time solar people been involved in the discussions, says Yann Brandt, cofounder of the Demeter Power Group, a South Florida-based rooftop company. In 2008, the little guys intervened, and those talks eventually created a good metering policy and access to the grid for rooftop solar — moves that laid the groundwork for a good solar industry in the state.

The utilities had no problem with TASC sitting in on those discussions, in part because solar was still an expensive pipe dream. But since then, solar has seen a 75% price reduction, Brandt says, making it a viable consumer option. The 2014 round of FEECA talks could set out new policy to really jump-start the industry.


So, naturally, the utilities are now keeping a closer eye and doing what they can to maintain the current status quo.

When TASC filed on June 10th, all of the Sunshine State’s major utilities responded, all together — Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power Company, JEA, and Tampa Electric Company — filing a joint response opposing the Alliance’s appearance.

The angle taken for the opposition is that the TASC isn’t what it claims to be, and rather than representing “mom-and-pop businesses,” it represents wholesale solar suppliers. And “that the FEECA talks were not intended to promote businesses, to protect business markets, or to protect the competitive economic interests of the solar industry.”

Naturally, Brandt disagrees.

“All of the sudden, the utilities no longer want the solar industry in the room because they want to proactively make sure that solar isn’t part of the energy mix in Florida,” he states. “They’ve been pretty open about the only solar they want in the state is large solar farms, not on people’s rooftops and their businesses.”

Indeed.

“At the end of the day, we recognize that the utilities are monopolies and they have to protect their shareholders, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a discussion about the things we don’t agree on and find common ground,” Brandt says. “It’s not that you want to make everyone put solar on their house, but we want to give people a choice.”

As of right now, the commission has decided to deny TASC’s petition. It’s unclear what the alliance’s next move is.

Maybe they can take a page from Tesla’s playbook in that regard and get citizens to demand the choice. Is not the US supposed to be based on freedom of choice?

It’s too bad that the fight for electric cars and solar power, both things that will help society, are so hard. And it’s ironic that Florida, the Sunshine State, is still hindering solar energy development.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • Wayne Williamson

    Just a couple of extra points….
    Florida is known as the sunshine state. Seems like solar would be a no brainer.
    The current Governer has done pretty much nothing while the rest of the country and yes world have deployed like crazy.
    The possible replacement for him, has nothing on his list either.

  • Calamity_Jean

    Who owns the Florida state government? Republicans.

  • http://jpwhitehome.wordpress.com JP White

    All that sunshine and the utilities want it all to themselves. That’s what happens when you create a closed market that is protected by regulation.

    They maybe able to block solar tie ins to the grid, but folks could simply go off grid with enough storage and panels. As technology keeps getting cheaper, Florida might lead the charge for individuals going off grid.

    Musk would do well to sell Solar City installs, with battery storage from his gigafactory, all running the home appliances and charging the Tesla vehicle.

  • tmac1

    Jeff
    I have officially stolen your clean energy meme
    Thank you!!
    Here in Portland we are trying to block tar sands from being shipped from Canada to our harbor and then abroad. Typical scare tactics are we are going to lose jobs. Using your positive theme is we should emphasize build the infrastructure for the 21st century with clean energy , not repeat our dirty energy mistakes of the 20 the century

    Mr energy czar according to tesla models S website they have state by state breakdown do how electrons are produced. They list it under top 5 questions and it is amazing to see the variation across USA. Florida has 65% nat gas 22% coal 12% and a paltry 1% oil.

    • A Real Libertarian

      Link please?

      • JimBouton

        “Florida was second only to Texas in 2013 in net electricity generation from natural gas, which accounted for 62% of Florida’s net generation; coal accounted for 21%, the state’s nuclear power plants accounted for 12%, and other resources, including renewable energy, supplied the remainder.”

        “Renewable energy accounted for 2.2% of Florida’s total net electricity generation in 2013 and the state ranked seventh in the nation in net generation from utility-scale solar energy.”

        http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=FL

        • A Real Libertarian

          Thanks.

  • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

    The Gulf oil industry is too important, I’m surprised solar is even legal in Florida. Does Florida still burn the highest percentage of oil as part of their electric grid production mix?

    • http://renewablerevolution.createaforum.com/index.php agelbert

      Florida is going to be “New Venice Archipelago” soon if they don’t extract their politics from LA-La land.
      “Release of the International Surface Temperature Initiative’s (ISTI’s) Global Land Surface Databank, an expanded set of fundamental surface temperature records ”

      Calling GW deniers everywhere. Go crawling to your Koch dirty energy funded mendacity for profit-over-planet mindfork propaganda “think”(septic) tanks for your “talking points”. The liars are going to have to come up with some world class BS verbal gymnastics to find ANY questionable data in this COMPREHENSIVE, PEER REVIEWED DATA SET.

      “Guest post by Jared Rennie, Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, North Carolina on behalf of the databank working group of the International Surface

      Temperature Initiative In the 21st Century, when multi-billion dollar decisions are being made to mitigate and adapt to climate change, society rightly expects openness and transparency in climate science to enable a greater understanding of how climate has changed and how it will continue to change. Arguably the very foundation of our understanding is the observational record.

      Today a new set of fundamental holdings of land surface air temperature records stretching back deep into the 19th Century has been released as a result of several years of effort by a multinational group of scientists.

      The International Surface Temperature Initiative (ISTI) was launched by an international and multi-disciplinary group of scientists in 2010 to improve understanding of the Earth’s climate from the global to local scale. The Databank Working Group, under the leadership of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), has produced an innovative data holding that largely leverages off existing data sources, but also incorporates many previously unavailable sources of surface air temperature.

      This data holding provides users a way to better track the origin of the data from its collection through its integration. By providing the data in various stages that lead to the integrated product, by including data origin tracking flags with information on each observation, and by providing the software used to process all observations, the processes involved in creating the observed fundamental climate record are completely open and transparent to the extent humanly possible. – ”

      Full READ IT AND WEEP (for fossil fuelers ) fact filled article HERE.

      Demand an END to DIRTY ENERGY NOW!

      “Approximately 13 percent of the U.S. electricity supply was powered by renewables as of the end of 2013, roughly half of Germany’s rate.”

      http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/08/3456934/renewable-one-third-germany/

      The USA, a historic leader in new technology, is getting left behind because of the profit-over-planet biosphere degrading fossil fuel industry that buys our politicians with the profits from pollution producing fuels while said politicians keep fossil fuel and nuclear power plant “subsides” (taxpayer theft!) to tilt the energy playing field against renewable energy.

      We need to ELIMINATE DIRTY ENERGY SUBSIDIES and start the FULL TRANSITION to CLEAN ENERGY NOW!

      America DOES NOT have to play second fiddle to being the first country to win the Climate Victory because of idiot greedball, war loving fossil fuelers.

      As part of being responsible, caring human beings, we have to pressure our government to take major action to stop the degradation of the biosphere from climate change. This is causing death and disease to both domestic animals and wildlife, all of which have done nothing to deserve such a horrible fate at our hands. It’s time to eliminate the excuse our fossil fuel loving oligarchy uses for “resources” wars for oil that bring nothing but misery to us and profits for them.

      I started a petition on Care2: Demand Liberty From Fossil Fuels Through 100% Renewable Energy WWII Style Effort. I’m hoping that if enough people sign my petition, we can make a difference. Will you help me collect more by adding your name?

      Here’s a link to the petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/420/529/456/demand-liberty-from-fossil-fuels-through-100-renewable-energy-wwii-style-effort/

      Thank you and please pass it on. The biosphere you save may be your own. [img]http://www.pic4ever.com/images/earthhug.gif[/img] [img]http://www.pic4ever.com/images/icare.gif[/img]

  • S.Nkm

    Pretty sad considering that a huge part of Florida will be under water if nothing is done. People are crazy.

  • Offgridmanpolktn

    So the utilities are saying that the solar representatives can’t speak at the at this public meeting because they represent an industry.
    So this means that there will also be no input or commentary from any of the electric utilities or related power generation or conservation interests, right?
    Otherwise what total hypocrisy, the whole purpose of this is to get input from all sides to determine the best policies for the public interest.

    • Jim Smith

      interesting how that works, eh?

      • Offgridmanpolktn

        More sad how an entrenched monopoly so blatantly displays anti consumer behavior.
        Part of why my reaction to this is so strong is that for over a year now Florida Power has been harassing my father and all of their customers to start donating extra with their power bills every month to help them build solar farms. Not a single word about the possibility of reduced rates or any other type of credit for these donations. Just a constant harping in the form of letters and TV advertising in addition to the monthly flyer with his power bill asking the customers to help Florida go green.
        He doesn’t think that he will be around long enough to see a return on a rooftop solar system, but we have had to have the conversation several times that he doesn’t need to contribute to the utilities building fund if they aren’t going to give any type of return other than it is green energy at the same or higher prices as that from fossil fuels.

        • Jim Smith

          has he looked into leasing vs buying? not sure how leasing works when you sell the house though…

          • Offgridmanpolktn

            Leasing isn’t necessary as he has enough money and have tried to show him that the net metering of a small system year round would easily balance the small bills of the six months spent there during the winter. But then because the bills are small he doesn’t put a lot of priority on doing this.
            So more a problem of the inertia of age and the family politics of my sisters fighting his girlfriend getting the place when he does go. Which would actually be fine with me as she’s the only grandmother my boys have, and we could keep up our holiday visits without having to put up with them full-time.
            So if he doesn’t do it will hopefully be my job to help his girlfriend make the switch so long as the utilities haven’t blocked the grid tie aspect or removed the net metering that help the economics of the purchase price balance sooner.
            Apologies if this has been a case of TMI, but did want to address your question.

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