Florida's solar industry might be up against the ropes, but it's vowing to fight on. As we reported a few weeks back, the small but feisty solar industry -- with an assist from the Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC), a national group pushing sun energy -- is trying to outlive the kibosh coming from Florida's all-powerful utilities. And although it's lost an important bid to enter current state discussions on the industry's future, there's a growing grassroots push for more solar options.
"This all goes back to our first question," explains Yann Brandt, a solar advocate and cofounder of South Florida's Demeter Power Group. "What are the utilities up to? What are they trying to hide, and why don't they want solar in the room?"
To recap, earlier this summer, TASC applied to intervene on the Florida Public Service Commission's upcoming hearing about the future of solar in the state. The organization had applied for a seat at such discussions before, no problem. But in June, five of Florida's power utilities -- Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light Co., Gulf Power Co., JEA, and Tampa Electric Co. -- came together to block TASC's request.
The commission sided with the utilities, meaning the private companies trying to bring rooftop and other solar options to consumers are going to be left out of the ongoing conversations. The commission has also decided to not allow for public comment.
According to Brandt, there's not a lot he and other solar advocates can do at this point.
"We'll continue to file commentary through the avenues that are presented," he says. "Even if they don't want to take it, we'll file it to have that out there for the public. We're the only ones fighting for solar against five utilities who are basically trying to gut everything that's been done already -- which isn't much."
But people aren't going to let this slip into the bureaucratic soup. Just this week, about 100 demonstrators showed up in front of the Public Service Commission building. Organized by the Sierra Club, protesters from across the state chanted "Clean energy now," according to the Tampa Bay Times.