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Solar 'uprising' becomes partisan rally as Crist arrives and RPOF stalks

Photo (12)A capital rally to encourage solar energy development in Florida became partisan Thursday as organizers used the event to call out incumbent Gov. Rick Scott and welcomed his election-year rival, former Gov. Charlie Crist. 

“In Tallahassee, it’s pay to play right now – the ones that are controlling the money are controlling the power,’’ said Stephen A. Smith, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a solar industry-backed group which advocates for the development of alternatives to fossil fuels. The group funded an Integrity Florida report that found that the state’s four top electric companies have spent $18 million between 2004-2012 on state and legislative campaigns.

In the last year, the utility companies have given the governor’s campaign $2.5 million this election cycle, Smith said, “they get what they want.”

Smith said that Florida has the third largest potential for rooftop solar generation in the nation but ranks 18th  in solar installation because, he said, the utility industry fears the market threat of allowing homeowners and businesses to generate their own electricity.

He said they invited the Republican governor to attend the rally, but he didn’t come.That prompted Smith to declare a new rule: "You can't be governor of the Sunshine State if you do not support solar power." He begin a call-and-response with the crowd of about 150 activists wearing t-shirts and sunglasses.

“Rick Scott,’’ they shouted. “MIA today. Gone tomorrow.”

Scott has not been a vocal advocate for alternative energy and didn't respond to requests to explain his position on the issue Thursday. In his first year in office, he opposed a proposal by Florida’s five major utilities that would have allowed them to charge customers as much as $1.5 billion over four years to produce more renewable energy. 

Crist, the former Republican governor turned Democrat who wants his old job back, was content to oblige the solar advocates.

“We deserve to have clean energy. We deserve to have solar energy,” he told the crowd. He held up his campaign bumper sticker with a logo that he says his wife, Carol, developed.

“See what’s on top of that? It’s the sun,’’ he said. “It’s important that we send a message...We’re going to clean up Florida and were going to clean up it by going more solar. 

In typical Crist fashion, he dropped a name: Elon Musk, the billionaire developer of the Tesla cars and SolarCity, one of the largest solar companies in North America, whom he met to talk about solar.

“He said, Charlie you guys ought to be the global example of solar energy on the planet,’’ he said. “You’re the Sunshine State….We’ll get it done and we’ll not only clean up the planet. We’ll clean up that place,’’ he says, pointing to the Capitol behind him.

In the crowd were a handful of Republican Party of Florida trackers, including Lauren Schenone, who used the event to shout out questions to Crist about working for lawyer John Morgan and using a private plane for campaign travel. 

Crist didn’t specify what policy changes he would endorse if elected, except to say they would follow some of the executive orders he signed while governor.

Crist signed three executive orders in July 2007 after the Republican-led Legislature refused to adopt his clean-energy initiatives. The pre-recession orders set statewide greenhouse gas emissions targets, called for increased energy efficiency, increased the use of clean, renewable energy sources and removed market barriers for renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind energy. He also proposed spending $200 million on green technologies.

“This stuff is not rocket science,’’ he told reporters. “Reducing carbon emissions and making sure we use more solar and more wind is just the right thing to do. Those are the kinds of things I would want to assert but I need to win first.”

He acknowledged that even though he had a Republican-led Legislature as a Republican governor he couldn’t get his solar initiatives passed. As a Democrat, he said he could succeed “because I’m an optimist and, if we win, it will send a message to those members.”

“We need people power because they’ve got all the money in the world,’’ he said.

Crist acknowledged that once he faced Legislative resistance on solar issues, he didn’t push them as aggressively the rest of his term.

“With the passage of time, hopefully you get a little wiser and I think the need to push those things even harder is more clear to me than it’s ever been,’’ He said. “No question.”

Crist said no utility companies have offered his campaign money and if they do, he’ll “cross that bridge.” He recalled how Florida Power & Light offered him $1 million when he became the Republican nominee for governor in 2007, “I told them. ‘Keep it.’ I don’t want to win with your money. If they say we want to partner on some of these things, then I’ll be open minded and look at it but as it sits right now, no.” 

Asked about the latest Scott campaign ad, with its claims that misstate the facts regarding Obamacare, Crist said “It’s obviously misleading at best.”

But he repeated his support for Obamacare. The ad “talks about the fact that I think that Obamacare is great.,’’ he said. “It is great. I run into people all the time since those ads started running and people tell me you know what, we like what you’re saying, it is great.”

He recalled a conversation with a woman in Orlando who said the ads worked in Crist’s favor because she lost two brothers who suffered from juvenile diabetes and couldn’t get coverage. 

He recalled a conversation with a woman in Orlando who said the ads worked in Crist’s favor because her two brothers died after suffering from juvenile diabetes, a pre-existing condition, and couldn’t get health care coverage. 

 “So what you’re saying about it being great,’’ he recalled her saying, “is absolutely the God’s truth.”

Photo: Former Gov. Charlie Crist chats with Michelle Sheldon of Naples. The Collier County resident said she is concerned about exploratory drilling for oil and gas in her county and a policy by Florida Power & Light to limit how  much rooftop solar homeowners can rely on. 

Comments

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Voice of reason

Maybe this means the sun will be setting on Rick Scott?

FLMom

From your keyboard to the FSM's ears, Voice of reason.

D

shut up welfare mom. Go get a husband so we don't have to hear your constant nagging.

Bill Thompson

As the wise Stephen A. Smith, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said, it is a pay to play mentality in Tallahassee by the scumbag Scott and the GOP controlled legislature. and only big GOP campaign contributors get to play..all other are not welcome nor represented.

ed jenkins

The citizens are grateful that this scott who has displayed exemplary fiscal stewardship will protect them from higher costs of uneconomic energy sources.

macarena

Funny, the Governor said basically nothing about an actual energy proposal. Just like when he was Governor. Flowery press releases, bogus executive orders that their office KNEW didn't have the force of law. PR gimmicks. Government by press release. Just like when he was AG and sued the phone companies and it resulted in NOTHING BUT HIGHER APPROVAL NUMBERS FOR CHARLIE. At the end of the day, after 4 years of Charlie putting "renewable energy" or "solar" in every speech, he got NOTHING accomplished, other than a bill he and Rubio negotiated that gave FPL a gigantic boondoggle of expensive solar (thanks to former DEP Secretary and now VP at FPL). He was great at celebration signings of do-nothing legislation.

Solar installers know better. Real solar renewable advocates know better because everyone was there. They were all there. So was Southern Alliance, which is disappointing they are being used like this.

Democrats need a real Democrat who understands and get change the direction of actual policy, not powder puff politics that results in nothing tangible.

ed jenkins

As this somewhat wise Macarena has pointed out the scumbag crist can never be trusted and is not a true democrat which is why this and other democrat primary voters will vote for the nancy lady if party leaders do not act to replace this horrible man as their preferred candidate.

Bill Thompson

It is clear that the scumbag Scott has been bought and paid for by the large corporate utilities that dictate energy policy in the sunshine state. This horrible man should step down now and allow the RFOP to appoint a strong candidate for the position, as the failing Scott campaign and his flagging polling numbers will drag down the entire republic party ticket on election day.

D

Shut up already you loser thompson. You don't even pay your electricity bills you loser because you don't have a job and just sit on your ass posting messages on here all day. Get a job and then you can worry about the electric bill lowlife.

Bill Thompson

A state known as the sunshine state should be the leader in solar energy. The large electrical utility companies in the state fear that customers will install solar panels and disconnect from the grid. The big utilities fear losing their monopoly on electrical power generation. Great american corporations like Walmart are installing solar panels on the roofs of their stores to generate electricity.

D

Shut the hell up you loser no one cares that you can't afford the electricity bill so you want us to pay for solar panels for your crappy shack. Go get a job and stop posting on here all day you loser.

Bill Thompson

The electric utilities fear companies like Solar City, which is growing 80% a year as more and more individuals, corporations, universities and governments are installing solar energy panels and cutting their electric bills. Individuals are installing solar panels on their homes and selling the excess power generated back to the electrical utility. As the Sunshine State, Florida should be leading in this game-changing technology.

ed jenkins

As the citizens have stated many times they have no interest in paying for uneconomic energy projects and want no more discussion on such a foolish topic.

It appears that two angry commenters named D and Thompson have some built up animosity that they choose our hometown paper to let it out on nightly after this democrat primary voter has left, hurling insults back and forth with no substance added. The readers are tired of reading this nonsense from both of them and wish them to take their fights elsewhere.

Cindy

"A state known as the sunshine state should be the leader in solar energy. The large electrical utility companies in the state fear that customers will install solar panels and disconnect from the grid. The big utilities fear losing their monopoly on electrical power generation."

Completely agree. This is what the rally was all about!

This article should be solely about the solar energy business....the event had nothing to do with Obamacare. That's a separate topic altogether.

Fact is, Florida is in the minority of the states that don't support policies that are in favor of solar energy industries. Governor Charlie Crist has actually been in favor of the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. He has not been successful thus far but he has done much more than Governor Rick Scott (which is nothing, if not blatantly oppose solar with his absence).

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