January 27, 2015

Facing down a constitutional amendment, FPL plans three new solar plants

By Ivan Penn, Tampa Bay Times @Consumers_Edge 

Florida's largest investor owned utility announced plans Monday to build three new solar farms that would nearly double the state's solar capacity.

In its announcement, Florida Power & Light said it had found a "cost-effective" way to expand solar power in Florida and proposed to install the systems at three sites in its service area. The utility proposes to add 225 megawatts of solar to the state's current 229 megawatts by the end of next year in Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties.

FPL is still refining the details of the project so the utility did not provide cost estimates. But the company said there would be no significant impact on customer rates.

"Over the past decade, we have continuously focused on advancing reliable, affordable, clean energy for our customers," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "In particular, we have been working especially hard to find ways to advance solar energy in Florida without increasing electricity costs, and we have developed what we believe will be a cost-effective plan.

But FPL utility noted in a news release that "solar power — even the most economical large-scale installation — is generally not yet cost effective in FPL's service area."

Continue reading "Facing down a constitutional amendment, FPL plans three new solar plants" »

January 20, 2015

Bill would prohibit Florida utilities from charging for fracking

A bill filed in the state Legislature Tuesday would prohibit Florida utilities from charging customers for investment in fracking operations.

Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, filed the measure in response to a recent ruling by the Florida Public Service Commission that will allow Florida Power & Light to collect $191 million from ratepayers to invest in an Oklahoma fracking project.

In March, the PSC will decide on whether to allow FPL to expand the effort. Duke Energy has expressed interest in exploring similar proposals.

Story here.

Bill would reduce taxes on solar power systems

A St. Petersburg lawmaker announced Tuesday the filing of a bill that would reduce the taxes on solar power systems for businesses that install them at their facilities.

The legislation by State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, would expand existing law for residential solar installations to include commercial property. The bill would reduce the real estate or personal property tax for solar installations and exempts devices that produce renewable energy from tangible property tax.

Solar industry experts say the taxes are one of the barriers to expansion of solar in Florida. Those taxes, the solar experts say, made it difficult economically for the industry to make a profit.

"The Sunshine State should be the leader in solar energy," Brandes said. "This legislation is designed to remove barriers to businesses so that they can enter this growing renewable energy market. Reducing burdensome taxes is a key component to fostering the solar energy market in Florida."

Brandes' legislation is one of a growing number of efforts to change Florida policy in regard to solar. Story here.

October 20, 2014

Clean energy group delivers 92,000 petitions to governor

A group of clean energy advocates continued the drumbeat against Gov. Rick Scott's on Monday and delivered more than 92,000 signatures urging him to develop a strong plan for Florida to meet the requirements of the EPA's Clean Power plan. 

The group, called Florida’s Clean Future coalition, had school children, college students and parents pull red wagons with boxes of petitions to the governor's office at the state Capitol as part of an aggressive initiative by climate change activists to keep a focus on the issue in the governor's race. The EPA requires the state to have a plan to reduce carbon emissions in place by 2030 and the first deadline is in 2015. The governor has remained silent about his plans to address the issue. 

Last week, scientists, business and community leaders called on Scott to listen to their climate change solutions. Meanwhile, NextGen Climate, the political committee founded by California billionaire Tom Steyer to target climate change skeptics, has spent more than $12 million in Florida for a campaign to defeat Scott's re-election bid.

 

October 17, 2014

Scientists offer up solutions on climate change, now ask Gov. Rick Scott to hear them

 Gov. Rick Scott asked for solutions and so they brought them.

Scientists, business leaders, local elected officials came up with a lengthy list of ways Florida could help to address climate change and on Friday delivered a letter to the governor and asking him for, yes, another meeting.

This comes as the governor's silence on climate change, his campaign's receipt of millions from the utility industry, and his failure to create a state energy policy in the face of rising sea waters has become a vulnerability in his race for governor.

NextGen Climate, the political committee founded by California billionaire Tom Steyer to target climate change skeptics, has spent more than $12 million in Florida for a campaign to defeat Scott's re-election bid. They are running television ads in the crucial Tampa Bay media market, have opened 21 offices, and say they have more than 500 staffers, canvassers and volunteers across Florida. They also built an ark and trucked it across the state to get TV time. 

Scott won't say if he believes that humans, fossil fuel or other factors contribute to the earth's warming but he did agree to meet with five scientists Aug. 19 in his office. Before the meeting, he said he was a less interested in causes than he was in addressing them. During the meeting, he asked no issue-related questions but said he was a "solutions guy." 

The scientists took that as a call to action. They joined with elected officials and business leaders and convened the Climate Science & Solutions Summit at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg last week. It was a standing room only crowd.

A summary of the suggestions that emerged was written up for the governor and signed by 50 of the participants, delivered to the governor's office today with a request for a in-person meeting. 

Continue reading "Scientists offer up solutions on climate change, now ask Gov. Rick Scott to hear them" »

August 27, 2014

Tom Steyer's new ad puts Rick Scott's King Ranch controversy in its sights

@MarcACaputo

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer's group, NextGen Climate, is planning to air its fifth ad targeting Gov. Rick Scott, attacking the Republican this time for his controversial secret hunting trip to King Ranch in Texas.

"What was Rick Scott really hunting for in Texas? Campaign cash from the sugar industry," a narrator intones as a wad of cash comes into a rifle's sight. "The same industry that got a massive bailout from Rick Scott, sticking taxpayers with the bill for cleaning up Big Sugar's water pollution. Rick Scott: sweet deals for the powerful few -- not you."

Oh, the irony. 

Scott's rival, Charlie Crist, was once Big Sugar's favorite when he was a Republican governor and inked a land deal with U.S. Sugar. Scott bashed the buyout/bailout, but then became governor and embraced it and now attacks Crist for not closing the deal.

This ad is scheduled to run in the West Palm Beach and Naples-Fort Myers' media markets.

With this spot, Steyer is closing in on $1 million spent against Scott on TV. Steyer has plans to spend as much as $10 million, including a large field organization that, if done properly, could bring environmental voters to the polls in a large and unprecedented way.

Here's the spot.

August 05, 2014

Business owners ask Scott for more time to comment on climate rules

A coalition of 17 owners of Florida-based companies that specialize in solar energy on Tuesday urged Gov. Rick Scott and the Public Service Commission to extend the public comment period on how the state will comply with the federal rules on limiting carbon pollution from power plants.

The PSC announced on July 10 that the public would have until Aug. 8 to comment on the new carbon rules but limited the distribution of the notice so few were aware of it.

In a letter to Scott and the panel that regulates utilities, the businesses said that is not enough time for them to make the case that the state should be allowing for more alternative energy to reach its carbon reduction goals.

"As Florida businesses, it matters how the state constructs its implementation plan including what type of process the state uses to make these important decisions,'' the group wrote in a letter to Scott and the PSC on Tuesday "We want the opportunity and time necessary to fully address our
concerns.''  Download Final PSC ltr

Florida has until June 30, 2016, to submit to EPA for approval its plan to implement the Clean Power Plan, the federal requirement aimed at reducing carbon pollution from power plants, which have been shown to be a contributor to climate change. In June, the Obama Administration released a plan for the EPA to limit the carbon pollution from power plants. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 21 percent of the electricity in Florida comes from coal-fired power plants, which are responsible for some of the most concentrated carbon dioxide emissions. The EIA also found that Florida’s power plants emit more pollution than those of any other U.S. state except Texas and Pennsylvania and Florida households consume 40 percent more electricity than the U.S. average and spend $1,900 more.

Because renewable energy accounts for only 2.2 percent of all energy generation in the state, the solar producers believe the state has great potential to reduce carbon emissions and create jobs by relying more on solar energy.

Scott, who denied the existance of human-induced climate change when he first ran in 2010, has refused to comment on the issue this election cycle. 

According to a recent poll by SurveyUSA and financed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 71 percent of Floridians believe that climate change is caused by carbon pollution and 77 percent back the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

April 01, 2014

Popular tax break for solar is being blocked in the House

A Florida Senate committee on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment for the November ballot that would give tax breaks to businesses that install solar panels, but it is unlikely to come before voters: The chairman of a powerful House committee believes the solar industry isn’t ready for it.

“I just don’t see the need to continue to expand the incentives and underwriting of solar,’’ said Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee. “Solar is coming a long way and eventually it’s going to be able to stand on its own two feet. But right now it doesn’t.”

Proponents of the bill, however, say that Workman’s attitude is more proof of the clout of Florida’s electric utilities, which view rooftop solar as the beginning of the end of their monopoly control over Florida’s energy market.

John Porter, the former mayor of Cape Canaveral and the managing partner of the solar energy company CleanFootprint, said Workman and others in the Legislature oppose the amendment because voters would likely approve it.

“Nothing polls over 90 percent [among voters], but solar does,’’ he said. “If the people of Florida are given a choice in this issue they are going to vote yes. . . . They understand how valuable it is to their air, their water and to the future of Florida.

“Instead, everybody here is really interested in keeping the status quo in place, which is the stranglehold of these large utilities,” he said. “It’s really almost criminal and we need to make a change.”

Two bills in play, SB 917 and HB 825, would place an amendment on the 2014 ballot that would rewrite the state constitution to allow for an ad valorem tax exemption when businesses install renewable energy devices, such as solar panels, as long as the company consumes the electricity itself. Story here.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/04/01/4033626/popular-tax-break-for-solar-power.html#storylink=cpy