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)
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.”
“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.