ST. PETERSBURG, FL– Just weeks after voters in Florida shot down a deceptive ballot initiative that would have further restricted rooftop solar growth in the state, a new report, “Blocking the Sun,” highlights 4 Florida utilities amongst 17 entities nationwide working aggressively to block solar policies.
With solar power on the rise around the country, a national network of fossil fuel and utility-backed organizations have joined forces to put the brakes on this fast growing pollution-free energy resource. Trade groups and think tanks backed by deep pocketed anti-clean energy ideologues and fossil interests are bankrolling campaigns, promoting model legislation and media campaigns to provide cover for anti-solar campaigns across the country including in Florida, said the new report released today by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center.
“Pollution-free solar energy represents Florida’s most abundant energy resource,” said Jennifer Rubiello, State Director with Environment Florida. “For our climate and our environment, we can’t allow special interest forces in the fossil fuel industry to pull the plug on the bright potential of solar power.”
Of the findings, the report documents how the Koch brothers have provided funding to the national fight against solar by funneling tens of millions of dollars through a network of opaque nonprofits. A Koch brothers front organization, 60 Plus, also recently spent more than $1 million to support a deceptive, ostensibly pro-solar group in Florida that is working to create new barriers to solar energy ownership. Florida Power and Light (FPL), Gulf Power Electric, Tampa Electric Company and Duke Energy, the largest utility in the U.S., have spent millions of dollars also backing a front group, Consumers for Smart Solar, which is the primary backer of the deceptive Amendment 1 ballot initiative that would have further restricted rooftop solar growth in the state.
In mid-2016, there were at least 84 ongoing policy actions in U.S. states that could impact the growth of solar energy, including through limitations to net metering or new charges to make rooftop solar power less economically viable.
"Despite the fact that the Sunshine State has great potential to deploy solar, some utilities are trying to block consumers from taking advantage of plummeting prices which will save money and create local jobs,” said Susan Glickman, Florida Director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Florida policymakers must not put the interests of influential power companies protecting their monopolies ahead of the consumers they are elected to protect."
The report urges state decision makers to recognize and resist utility and fossil fuel industry influence that seeks to undermine solar energy and to instead encourage the growth of solar.
"I commend Environment Florida for its continued work to promote solar energy,” said Florida State Representative Ben Diamond. “Florida is the Sunshine State, and we should be a national leader in solar energy. In order to do so, we need to enact policies that help make solar power available and affordable for Florida's consumers. Solar energy will not only be good for our environment, it will also help our economy by saving money for consumers, and generating thousands of high-paying jobs. I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to join with me to enact policies that will fuel the growth of solar energy in Florida."
The report comes as Environment Florida launches its “Stand Up for Solar” campaign to continue to defend solar policies in 2017 and beyond from utilities and fossil fuel groups pushing anti-solar agendas.
“Solar is finally catching on and providing tremendous benefits, reducing pollution, saving consumers and businesses money, and revitalizing local economies,” said Rubiello. “Now, more than ever, states must lead the charge on a transition to solar power and renewable energy.”