New conservative group fighting for solar power attacks recent PSC decisions

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For the longest time in Tallahassee, criticism regarding Florida’s Public Service Commission had been relegated to Democrats, environmental activist groups and editorial writers at Florida dailies – but its membership is  growing larger by the day.

In a split decision last week, the PSC voted to cut energy efficiency targets for investor-owned power companies and eliminate a solar rebate program in the state,  igniting howls of dissent from those above listed groups.

Conservatives for Energy Freedom, a Georgia based group that recently established a presence in Florida, is another such critic.

“We support the use of all forms of energy including our current sources, which is why it is so disheartening to see a further attempt to stamp out choice among the consumer in the Sunshine State, ” says Tony Perfetti, Florida director for Conservatives for Energy Freedom. “Competition and the creation of new industry in business is one of the most American practices that should be adhered to when talking about how we power our homes and places of work. We agree with (the) Christian Coalition when they stated, “We believe that all families should have access to renewable and alternative energy sources, as well more energy efficient cars, trucks and household appliances, in order to reduce our dependency on foreign oil.  Cost-effective policies should be enacted at the state, local and federal levels to accelerate a free-market shift to a cleaner, cheaper energy future.”

“The Florida PSC mentioned in their statements that all utility customers shouldn’t subsidize those that want solar,” adds Debbie Dooley with the Green Tea Coalition and Conservatives for Energy Freedom. “They apparently don’t have an issue with subsidies going to electric utilities – just utility customers. Utility customers are being forced to subsidize the bad decisions of utilities like Duke Energy and the multi-million dollar per year salaries of utility executives. FPL is asking for a massive new subsidy of 190 – 750 million dollars per year to go to Oklahoma and participate in very risky fracking ventures. If it fails, the utility customers will be left holding the bag-not the utilities. It is appalling that FPL does not want to take advantage of Florida’s biggest natural resource – the sun and wants to go to Oklahoma and take advantage of theirs. They should be creating jobs for Floridians – not Oklahoma residents. The Georgia solar industry now employs more than 2600 people. Farmers could benefit from utility grade solar farms being built on their farm land. We will be watching the decisions from the Florida PSC on this proposal as should all Florida citizens. “

Dooley is one of the original co-founders of the Tea Party Patriots back in 2009, but unlike some in that movement, she’s never been hesitant to work across ideological lines on certain issues. In 2012 her Tea Party group worked with the NAACP and the Sierra Club in Georgia to stop a proposed sales tax increase  that would have raised billions of dollars for transportation projects. And her bipartisan spirit has manifested itself twice this year locally.

In January she poke at a campaign kick-off for the No Tax for Tracks group, and then appeared at the “Pitchfork” rally against Duke Energy in October in St. Petersburg.

Conservatives For Energy Freedom say they’re prepared to fight for solar and added choice for utility customers. They say they’ll be making “a big announcement” next month on the ” multiple paths we will be taking in Florida to advance choice.”

Meanwhile a new poll commissioned by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy that was published today shows that 71 percent of Floridians support changing the law to allow solar companies to install solar panels on a home or business at no up-front cost and the right to sell the solar power they generate to the home or business owner. The findings were conducted by North Star Opinion Research, and released at a solar conference in Orlando.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.