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Clean-Energy Groups Question Florida's Solar Plan

PHOTO: Florida Power & Light's voluntary program would fund small solar projects in the state. Florida ranks third in the country for solar potential, but 12th for solar capacity installed. Photo courtesy: Stephanie Carson
August 14. 2014
PHOTO: Florida Power & Light's voluntary program would fund small solar projects in the state. Florida ranks third in the country for solar potential, but 12th for solar capacity installed. Photo courtesy: Stephanie Carson

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The state's largest energy provider – Florida Power & Light – got the OK this week to ask customers for a $9 donation to fund solar installations in the state.

While the plan, approved by the state's Public Service Commission (PSC), sounds like a step towards cleaner energy, clean energy advocates are questioning the fine print.

Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, says the energy generated over the next three years wouldn't amount to much.

"It really is not a serious effort by the state's largest utility to grow the solar market,” he maintains. “So we see it more as a public relations program masquerading as a solar program."

During the recent hearing with the PSC, Florida Power & Light also proposed ending solar rebates for customers, and cutting energy efficiency goals by 98 percent.

In the hearing, the company said the three-year pilot program is a way for customers to support solar if they cannot install solar on their homes.

The program is voluntary.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Florida ranks third in the country for solar potential, but 12th for solar capacity installed.

Smith stresses the program is missing the mark.

"And it is not going to create any real solar deployment in the best solar state in the eastern United States,” he says. “I mean they don't call Florida the Sunshine State for nothing.”

According to information disclosed at the hearing, up to 20 percent of the money collected will go to its marketing and administrative costs.

The cost of solar installation on homes and businesses is on the decrease – falling about 40 percent from 2010.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - FL