There is never an egg timer around when you need one. Please take the time to read this; this is important!
I wrote “Wake up Florida” this past Thursday and published it Thursday night in anticipation of Earth Day. To my surprise, I received Mr. Kimball’s article below on Friday; how prophetic.
The future of privately owned renewable energy in Florida is threatened and Florida State Government energy policy hangs in the balance. If the utility companies capture, exclusively, the monopoly right to alterative renewable energy generation, the cost of electricity will skyrocket, we will all be captives of their immense power; both economic and political, and nuclear plants will sprout like cabbage palms all over the State. They don’t want to build any significant amount of alternative energy; they just want to be sure you don’t build it for yourself.
Please, forward this to everyone you know and instruct them to forward it to all the house members at the bottom of this email and especially your individual Representative and Senator. As I have always said; they need our vote far more than we need their governance and interference in private alternative energy participation.
The paper below and proposing that FPL be given $1 billion dollars of private citizens hard earned money to construct solar farms, and receive a 30% tax credit on top of that and, as the current tax law is written, depreciate the $1 billion over five years using the double declining balance method (40% of 85% of cost, less accumulated depreciation, in each of the first four years and the balance remaining, divided over the fifth and sixth years) and the proposition that net metering may be repealed in Florida is terrifying.
Net metering is the right to retrieve from the electric grid the excess production of your PV system at no cost to you.
Further, in addition to all the economic advantages to FPL mentioned; they are allowed, without review, to pass any additional cost of a solar farm along to consumers over and above the cost of conventional power plants.
If this legislation establishing one source renewable energy passes and net metering is repealed these are just a few of the results I believe will occur:
1) According to the PSC there were 1622 photovoltaic (PV) systems in Florida with 13,235 kW of capacity at the end of 2009; you may assume that number has increased as of today, but just that number of systems cost Florida consumers in excess of $100,000,000, at that time. Without net metering all of this investment will become economically obsolete. Generally, approximately one half, or more, of the production of a PV system is fed back to the electric grid. Without a net metering agreement with your utility company your excess power must be stopped from entering the grid and thus wasted, which I am told is technology difficult or impossible, with the present equipment in place, without simply turning your PV system off, or fed to the utility company, presumably for free. Actually, I can’t say what will happen to this power, but eliminating the current statewide net metering arrangement will place these PV owners at the mercy of their monopoly utility companies as to the value of their excess power production.
2) The photovoltaic (PV) industry in Florida will probably cease to exist. There will be no market for a product that is no longer economically viable, without net metering, and where the consumer is at the mercy of the utility companies. That is a simplistic statement concerning a complex situation; but suffice it to say that the utility companies understand their monopoly status and guard it jealously and the elimination of net metering would be in their best interest and allow them to set their own standards as to their agreement with their existing PV clients; or, more importantly for the PV industry and their future PV customers, if any. Thousands of jobs will be lost and millions of dollars that would have been spent locally will go elsewhere.
3) The price of electricity will most likely increase at a more rapid pace, as a result of these changes, than presently as the power produced by these new solar farms will be offsetting less expensive purchased power. Were the existing net metering arrangement to remain, a portion of this power shortfall would be provided by the private sector as prices for private PV systems are declining. Much of the reason this is happening now is that the worldwide recession, cutbacks worldwide in government incentives, and dramatic increases in alternative energy product production resulted in price reductions for PV systems in the 40% range.
4) The real goal here is to stop private power production; not simply for maintaining the utility company’s monopoly, but to control the methods and facilities used to produce that power. If net metering is repealed and sole control of production methods and facilities are vested in the utility companies it will be the next building block for the next generation of nuclear power plants in Florida.
5) As power prices rise, economic activity will be constrained. Unemployment will rise, social services costs will increase, public medical expenses will increase, crime rates will increase, per capita taxes will rise, and our overall quality of life and the state of the environment will be diminished as dollars, our dollars, flow north to Wall Street to benefit FPL and the financial industry.
Of the fifty States; forty two have some form of net metering statute. Some net metering agreements are better than others and there has been substantial progress in establishing a comprehensive nationwide net metering standard. Interestingly enough, many States have used the Florida net metering agreement as a template for their own agreements. It would be an embarrassment if Florida were the first State to repeal its net metering standard and a further embarrassment and economic calamity if the alternative energy industry were to be dealt a death blow by eliminating net metering.
The State Legislature and Governor Scott are About to Give Public Service Commission Approval To Raise Utility Rates by 2%, Each Year for Five Years, To Fund FPL’s Solar Farms and FPL is Also Asking for a Federal Tax Credit of 30% in Addition to Other Favorable Tax Treatments and Ratepayer Paid State Reimbursements and the Elimination of Net Metering.
The Case Against FPL’s Involvement in Solar Energy Development
By The Union of Concerned Scientists (1977)
“During the past year, a growing number of the nation’s private utility companies have launched programs to install units in the homes of their residential customers. To date most of these programs have been undertaken either at the urging of state regulatory commissions or at the initiative of the individual utility. The utilities are the logical group to provide this service, it is argued, because of their access to the large sums of capitol needed to start and maintain such programs.
While there may be some merit in some of the “pro” arguments for such utility involvement in solar projects, a full debate of the merits and demerits of such involvement has yet to occur. To date, there has been no public discussion of the “con” arguments. In the interest of fostering full public discussion of this issue the Energy Project of the Center for Science and the Public Interest in Washington D.C. has prepared an analysis of some of the problems that will be encountered. A summary of the analysis follows:
Excessive Profit Taking: Under proposed leasing schemes, the utilities would be in a position to realize a substantial profit. They were allowed a 17% return on their investment for customer insulation programs. If this is allowed for solar it could make solar seem less economically competitive (and possibly completely non-competitive) with nuclear and fossil fuels.
The report seems to imply that some utilities will take solar incentives (the tax payer’s money) to help pay for it and then use the construction of that same system as an excuse to get the state regulatory commission to increase people’s utility rates and perhaps to gain favorable public opinion for having built it.
Monopolization/Favoritism: Utilities could swiftly monopolize the solar energy field and drive out the small solar industries from the business. By giving just a few companies the lion’s share of the business rather than spreading around their purchases, the utilities could effectively decide which solar companies will be allowed to continue in business.
Increased Costs to Consumers: Invariably, as the utilities move into the solar product fields, they will justify investments in this area warranting increases in administrative cost as well associated with program R & D.
Homeowners Would Pay Twice: In a case where the utilities sell and install systems they would receive the government subsidies. The result would be the homeowner paying doubly for the equipment/materials through taxation as well as paying to rent/purchase from the utility. (see comment above – Excessive Profit Taking)
Lack of Accountability: The utilities have an essentially captive market. The only way customers can effectively impact a utilities’ policies is through a rate hearing before a state regularly commission. However such proceedings are complicated, time consuming and very expensive making them unviable for most customers. Accountability is vital in any program that can have an effect upon their future energy decisions and directions.
Lack ofCommitment to Solar by Utilities: Utilities themselves are maintaining the posture that solar technologies will not play a major role in the nation’s energy picture for years to come. They have expressed continued preference for not exhausting their nuclear and fossil fuel options before going solar.
Social/Political/Ethical/Considerations: Placing control of solar commercialization efforts in the hands of the utilities is to entrust the nation’s future to the same decision makers who have given us nuclear reactors, plutonium breeders, polluting coal plants, coal gasification facilities, all electric homes, and inverted rate structures. Moreover, utility involvement in such programs (solar) will only be viewed by those companies in terms of how it will benefit them, regardless of whether decisions they make will have a negative impact on the balance of society. For example, in testimony before Congress utility officials outlined the reason they had for entering the solar market. These reasons included 1. Providing a new business opportunity which would offset the inevitable reduction in utility sales and (2) Providing utilities with “access to capital (federal [and state} grants,) that would not (otherwise) be available.
Solar Technologies are Inherently Decentralized: The utilities owe their existence to a history based upon the development of large, expensive, and complex technologies. By comparison, though, solar technologies are simple, relatively low cost, and suited to dispersed, decentralized applications.
There are Alternatives: The primary argument of involving the nation’s utilities in solar programs has been that there is no viable alternative for the efficient commercialization of these technologies.
There are other options. For example communities owning municipal utilities a far more accessible to the public. Further they do not have a profit motive. A second option would for the city governments themselves to establish community co-ops (with the assistance of federal seed monies) they could purchase large quantities of solar systems. These systems could then be sold to local residents at cost. Third option is to rely on the industries themselves that are manufacturing and distributing the solar systems to institute leasing programs. There is no need to add a middleman to the leasing scheme. A forth option would be to fund Community Action Programs so they can broaden their programs to include all residents of their programs, not just the low-income.
This is a Decision for the Legislature: The involvement of the utilities solar programs could have ramifications for years to come. It is a decision that is far too significant to be entrusted to the discretion of the individual utilities or to state regulatory commission or to any administrative agency (federal, state or local). Decisions regarding utilities in involvement in such programs are properly decisions to be made by state legislatures (and possibly the Congress) only after extensive and thorough public debate. It should also be part of a fuller effort to secure substantial reform of utility rate structures and decision making procedures.
End of Summary.
Comments below from John Kimball
(Owner of a Miami solar electric company for 20 years):
If these large expansive multi-megawatt systems (solar utility plants, solar farms, various large scale commercial solar utility projects) covering massive amount of land were kept on the rooftops of our homes and commercial buildings where the solar generated electricity is to be used the following would happen:
1. It would not destroy wildlife habitat or use up good agricultural land and other valuable real estate.
2. It would not require unattractive massive power towers, transformer stations and power lines that visually and physically affect our environment.
3. It would be more electrically efficient as it would reduce electrical loses caused by resistance from hundreds of miles of transmission lines.
4. It would provide significantly more jobs. FPL’s Desoto 25 MW Plant was enough for 3000 homes but only created 400 jobs for about 4 months. 3000 individual home systems could have created over 10,000 jobs and hundreds of small business’s training, designing, warehousing, shipping and selling and installing solar systems. (for less than the $6.01 per watt paid by FPL for the Desoto Solar Farm – WES)
5. It would bring the cost of solar down becauseof the education of so many more people. People hardly even see or learn anything about solar systems from the Desoto Solar Farm or any other Solar Farm, and it’s the largest one in the U.S. It’s in the middle of nowhere surrounded by barbed wire. If the 3000 home systems had been installed on the homes themselves, hundreds of thousands of potential buyers would have been exposed to the best kind of solar education and solar marketing possible. They would have met, seen, heard or read about homeowners who had spent their hard earned money on a solar electric system and were happy they did it.
Solar electric systems are relatively simple and easy to understand if you have someone who will talk to you. Every solar home and every business is like a solar energy education facility. Homeowners and business owners are proud of their systems and more than willing to talk to people about them with great enthusiasm and passion.
Go look at any home or business’ solar system. No moving parts, simple to design, install, and the panels and inverter are so tough that no one has lived long enough to know how long they will last in real time. Every solar panel made today is guaranteed for 25 years or longer. What’s slowing us down? Why would the legislature want to take control of this technology away from the people of Florida and help to give it to a privately owned utility company? FPL gave more than $4 million to Legislative and a Statewide campaigns through November and since January has directed $255,000 to political party coffers, according to Public Campaign Finance reports.
Everyone should have the same right to enjoy electrical independence and the right to help develop it.
Nuclear power is one of FPL’s main interests. It’s as much about the nuclear waste we should all worry about as the potential for an accident, attack or natural disaster at a plant. Who is going to watch over all that poisonous radioactive waste forever; 100,000 years? Recorded civilization as we know it only goes back 5,000 years. What will it cost and what will be the dangers of decommissioning these plants when they have exhausted their useful life? Do you want that job? Your children?
The summary of the above statement from the Union of Concerned Scientists was written when I worked for U.S. Congressman George E. Brown Jr., the Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee. It was 1977 but its arguments are even more valid today, when you consider the amount of control our legislature and Governor Rick Scott seem to be about to bestow on The Public Service Commission to enable FPL to pull this all off with an annual 2% rate increase over the next five years that comes to about 206 million dollars a year or $1 Billion dollars. You can forget about Net Metering (running your meter with solar produced electricity), that will be gone, thanks to the Senate version of the bill that will be heard by the House State Affairs Committee tomorrow on Thursday April 20, 2011.
The precedent it will set will have serious negative ramifications for the future of solar energy nationwide, FPL and the Senators and Representatives in the State of Florida who support this need to know how you feel.
We are being robbed of our sunlight.
If you want to fight for the right to have your own solar electrical power system, and to be able to sell excess power back to FPL, here is a list of the people who are going to try and prevent you from doing it. They are the members of the House State Affairs Committee:
Mckeel, Seth (R) Chair firstname.lastname@example.org
Patronis, Jimmy (R) Vice Chair email@example.com
Garcia, Jr Luis R (D) Democratic Ranking Member firstname.lastname@example.org
Bembry, Leonard L. (D) email@example.com
Burgin, Rachel V. (R) firstname.lastname@example.org
Caldwell, Matthew H. (R) email@example.com
Clemens, Jeff (D) firstname.lastname@example.org
Crisafulli, Steve (R) email@example.com
Ford, clay (R) firstname.lastname@example.org
Kreegel, Paige (R) email@example.com
Kriseman, Rick (D) firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayfield, Debbie (R) email@example.com
Perry, W. Keith (R) firstname.lastname@example.org
Plakon, Scott (R) email@example.com
Porter, Elizabeth W. (R) firstname.lastname@example.org
Taylor, Dwayne L. (D) email@example.com
Williams, Trudi K. (R) firstname.lastname@example.org
Williams, Alan B. (D) email@example.com
Sun Electronics Int., Inc.
40 Years in Solar