Monday, July 20, 2015

Floridians bamboozled by electric utilities determined to suppress solar power ... by gimleteye

The political operatives who set up the dark money campaign against South Mayor Phil Stoddard in 2012 are behind the sham ballot initiative to counteract "Floridians for Solar Choice". What FPL wants to do is to confuse voters, by funding a competitive petition that misleads voters. If Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida legislature did their jobs to protect the welfare of people, citizen ballot referendums and the cost would not be necessary.  But as we witnessed in the case of the rubber stamp, rush job that FPL did with its permit application for two new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, Gov. Scott, his Cabinet including Adam Putnam, and the state legislature are no friends of people.

The following letter is from Floridians for Solar Choice. Please do your support and support energy choice in Florida, not energy monopolists like FPL.

Dear Friends,

As you know, the Floridians for Solar Choice ballot initiative is a grassroots effort to spur meaningful solar rooftop development by inserting competition for solar power in the Sunshine State. We now have approximately 50 endorsements from organizations - across the political spectrum, and business groups - and have garnered over 100,000 verified petitions. That apparently does not sit well with the status quo.

Enter the big power companies ….

It has recently been revealed in the press that FPL is involved in the introduction of a sham solar petition introduced (by a group called Consumers for Smart Solar) - meant to derail the Floridians for Solar Choice citizen petition drive. There are some links below to the stories, and the Forbes story is reproduced in whole - which indicates that this is not the first time FPL has engaged in nefarious tacticts against an electoral process (see Taking Back Our Power).

It's unfortunate that the state's biggest power company is trying to disrupt a legitimate citizens effort with a sham solar petition meant to confuse voters. Don't be fooled. It won't stop our citizens solar petition drive from moving forward.

Thank you for your continued support for Floridians for Solar Choice. If you haven't signed the petition, volunteered, or donated to the campaign. please visit the website today. Onwards, thanks,

George Cavros

More Smoke, More Mirrors For Solar Politics In Sunshine State

The politics of solar power seem to have taken a decidedly dark turn in the Sunshine State.

To be fair, despite the license plate slogan, Florida has never been very sympathetic with the sun. Under current law, only utilities are able to sell electricity to customers in Florida, including power generated by solar panels.

Over the better part of the past year, Floridians for Solar Choice (FLSC), a political action committee funded primarily by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, has been collecting signatures to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in the 2016 election. The proposed amendment would allow non-utility companies to sell solar power to customers directly.

Florida’s investor-owned utilities are anything but keen on the ballot proposal. This may explain why some people suspected that Florida Power & Light(FPL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of NextEra Energy and the state’s largest utility, may be backing Consumers for Smart Solar (CSS), a political action committee that appeared out of the blue last week. To be fair, the organization was officially founded on July 8, 2015, according to the Florida’s Department of State.

In less than a week, CSS launched a snazzy new website loaded with professionally produced multimedia content, recruited a slate of high-profile supporters and staged a major news conference kicking off its statewide ballot initiative. CSS seems more interested in denigrating FLSC’s amendment than promoting its own rival solar ballot.

Where did CSS come from? Who paid to set it up?

CSS has not yet raised a single dollar in contributions, according to records from Florida’s Division of Elections.

Given the organization’s rabid rhetoric against what it calls the “Big Solar” industry, one might suspect FPL was the source of CSS’s money.

“We have appreciated the opportunity to offer technical and policy assistance to Consumers for Smart Solar in the development of their amendment,” FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly said, an FPL spokeswoman said in an email to John Howell in The Daily Fray. “We have not yet made a donation, but we certainly intend to join others in supporting the effort.”

I am not an expert in campaign finance law, but I could not help but notice the FPL spokeswoman’s odd choice of words. Campaign finance laws regulate campaign “contributions” – not “donations.” In Florida’s Political Committee Handbook, the word “contribution” appears 144 times. By contrast, the word “donation” is not used even once.

A “contribution” may include circumstances where a company pays its employees to provide “technical and policy assistance” to a political action committee (PAC), but it is anybody’s guess what ”donations” include.

Normally, I probably would not have wondered about these things, but “normal” rarely applies in Florida’s utility industry. My suspicions deepened when I discovered that CSS is located at the same address as another elusive PAC called “Take Back Our Power,” which was funded almost exclusively by FPL as part of a bitter political battle between the utility and the City of South Daytona.

In 2011, South Daytona’s City Council voted in favor of creating a municipal utility rather than renewing a 30-year franchise agreement with FPL. “Take Back Our Power” was founded in 2012 and appears to have existed solely for the purpose of preventing the establishment of a municipal electrical system in South Daytona.

FPL contributed almost $400,000 to Take Back Our Power, including a significant amount of so-called “in-kind contributions” described in public records as “Consulting Services.” Think “technical and policy assistance.”

Take Back Our Power was located at the same address as CSS – 2640-A Mitcham Drive, Tallahassee, Florida 32308. The office building located at the address is actually occupied by Carroll & Company, a an accounting company that provides campaign finance compliance services. Carroll & Companyserved as the Campaign Treasurer for Take Back Our Power. It is playing the same role for CSS.

A few weeks before South Daytona voted on the ballot measure backed by Take Back Our Power, South Daytona’s City Council met to discuss, among other things, a controversial letter the organization had sent to voters. I’ve included a few excerpts from the meeting minutes below, which suggest that Take Back Our Power was little more than a front group for FPL.

Joseph Yarbrough, the City Manager of South Daytona, “stated that a PAC could say anything and have an unlimited amount of money. He noted the average spent was $80 per vote on the charter amendment. There had never been a campaign in the history of the city all combined that ever came close to spending that amount of money. If the city is for sale, it’s for sale . . . after six years of sending facts out and doing the best to provide the information to the citizens including transparency, the public doesn’t get involved. They have a tendency to look at slogans rather than the information. The city knew that FPL could do polls every week to measure the public opinion and spend whatever money necessary to protect their territory. FPL does not want to sit down and settle a dispute.”

Darryl Reichenberger, a resident of South Daytona, “stated that he was offended by the letter from ‘Take Back Our Power’ . . . [which] was blatantly full of untruths and some half-truths . . . He asked that the city council do more public education. He said ‘Take Back Our Power’ had no desire to debate the facts but simply spread the information that FPL wanted.”

I may be wrong, but I don’t think CSS would be legal but for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in “Citizens United.”


Anonymous said...

Interesting that NetEra is the #1 wind producer in the nation ( a fact they tout to their advantage at every opportunity) but is so vociferously opposed to development of solar energy in their home state.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, FPL is not opposed to development of solar energy per see, only opposed to the part generated out side of their grasp and control. Hey, they even let you bled extra $$$$$$ to (enjoy) solar generated power.
Its about time to establish a commune network, in new built developments, that lets them decouple from the utility. I'm sure some non profit organization structure could be rigged to kneecap the existing no sell law. This would require some community oriented thinking, you know, KOMMUNIZEM.
Who's going to hoist the first flag???

Anonymous said...

FPL's goal is to make residential solar uneconomic by charging exorbitant connection fees for grid-tied systems. That's what this substitute ballot proposal will do. Obviously you cannot set up a fancy website for zero dollars, so you know it's being done under the table for now.