Not Just “Climate Change” – the Other Words You Can’t Say in Florida

April 7, 2015

new-solar-cells-efficiencySolar. Energy.

Miami Herald:

Back when Paige Kreegel was a state representative in 2009, he had an idea that he thought simply made sense. Florida, the Sunshine State, should become a model for solar power.

As chairman of the state House’s Committee on Energy, Kreegel was in a position to change Florida laws that have restricted the growth of rooftop solar panels. As a self-described free-market Republican, he wanted to get government out of the way of a growing industry.

But Kreegel soon discovered his fellow committee members wouldn’t discuss solar energy, and the fact that he brought it up made him an outcast. When he walked the halls of the Legislature, other lawmakers would shut their doors.

“You know how Tallahassee has an in-group and an out-group?” said Kreegel, a physician in Punta Gorda who left the House in 2012. “I didn’t know I was on the outside until I went against the public utilities, and then — holy hell.”

Kreegel isn’t alone. Other lawmakers and lobbyists say that anyone who has attempted to expand the rooftop solar industry has been ostracized. The reason, some lawmakers say, is that Florida’s largest utilities have invested heavily in state political campaigns to fend off competition.

Campaign records show utility companies have sunk $12 million into the campaigns of state lawmakers since 2010.

That money comes from the bills paid by customers of the state’s four largest utilities — Duke Energy, Gulf Power, Florida Power & Light and Tampa Electric.

Those donations include contributions to every member of the Senate and House leadership. The recipient of the most utility money since 2010 is Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014 reelection campaign, which took in more than $1.1 million through two political action committees.

“Why don’t we have a bigger solar industry in Florida?” asked Mike Antheil, a West Palm Beach lobbyist who represents solar companies. “The answer is simple. Every kilowatt of solar you produce on your roof is one less kilowatt that the utilities can sell you.”

The state’s largest utilities declined to comment on specific questions related to this article.

Florida Center for Investigative Reporting:

Since Kreegel’s unsuccessful attempt to expand solar power in 2009, other lawmakers have tried as well, only to watch their bills languish in committee.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, submitted a bill last year that would have given a tax break to businesses and homeowners who installed solar. The law would have meant the property tax value of the home or business could not increase as a result of the value of the solar panels. His bill never received a hearing in Senate committees.

This year, Brandes has filed a new bill that would allow businesses that produce extra energy from solar cells to sell that energy to neighbors, but it faces an uphill climb in the Legislature.

“Here’s how the power companies control the Legislature: They ask the chairman of committees to never meet on the issue,” Brandes said.

Solar’s Unlikely Coalition

With few allies in Tallahassee, the state’s rooftop solar power industry is now looking to bypass lawmakers. A proposed constitutional amendment, which may appear on the 2016 ballot, would allow third-party solar power sales in Florida.

The effort is being organized by an unlikely collection of interests, including the Christian Coalition, pro-retail groups, the Tea Party, and clean energy supporters. The idea brings together those who support fewer government regulations and those who support reducing carbon emissions, said Tory Perfetti, a Republican operative from Tampa working with a group called Floridians for Solar Choice.

“Finally, the sun is shining on the process of opening the energy market in Florida,” Perfetti said.

The ballot initiative is being funded in part by Floridians for Solar Choice, a political action committee. It’s not easy to trace the source of the money being given to the pro-solar initiative — unlike with the utility company money. Most of the contributions to Floridians for Solar Choice, totaling $264,457, came from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund, which does not report the source of its money.


New York Times:

At long last, the Koch brothers and their conservative allies in state government have found a new tax they can support. Naturally it’s a tax on something the country needs: solar energy panels.

For the last few months, the Kochs and other big polluters have been spending heavily to fight incentives for renewable energy, which have been adopted by most states. They particularly dislike state laws that allow homeowners with solar panels to sell power they don’t need back to electric utilities. So they’ve been pushing legislatures to impose a surtax on this increasingly popular practice, hoping to make installing solar panels on houses less attractive.

Oklahoma lawmakers recently approved such a surcharge at the behest of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the conservative group that often dictates bills to Republican statehouses and receives financing from the utility industry and fossil-fuel producers, including the Kochs. As The Los Angeles Times reported recently, the Kochs and ALEC have made similar efforts in other states, though they were beaten back by solar advocates in Kansas and the surtax was reduced to $5 a month in Arizona.

But the Big Carbon advocates aren’t giving up. The same group is trying to repeal or freeze Ohio’s requirement that 12.5 percent of the state’s electric power come from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2025. Twenty-nine states have established similar standards that call for 10 percent or more in renewable power. These states can now anticipate well-financed campaigns to eliminate these targets or scale them back.

6 Responses to “Not Just “Climate Change” – the Other Words You Can’t Say in Florida”

  1. John Says:

    Reblogged this on jpratt27.

  2. Gingerbaker Says:

    So, Rick Scott really isn’t that stupid. He’s just paid to be that stupid.

    Surprise, surprise – a Republican who doesn’t have a clue whose interests the government is supposed to protect.

  3. skeptictmac57 Says:

    Corporations are ‘people’ now, and like actual people, they can be greedy, self interested, sociopaths that will ruthlessly do any number of things to their benefit despite the harm that it causes to society at large.
    Individual people can be that way too, but the key difference is that a corporate ‘person’ is millions of times more powerful and influential than any ‘one person one vote’ could ever be.
    Xenu help us all!


  4. […] Solar. Energy. Miami Herald: Back when Paige Kreegel was a state representative in 2009, he had an idea that he thought simply made sense. Florida, the Sunshine State, should become a model for sol…  […]

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