A Postcard from Florida: NextEra Energy is Crushing Florida’s Aloha Spirit
A little over a week ago, Hawaii regulator back home.s approved the acquisition of its main utility – HECO – by Florida-based NextEra Energy. All of Hawaii’s eyes should be on NextEra’s behavior in the Sunshine State during the coming months given its Florida subsidiary’s dark track record on solar energy
NextEra-owned Florida Power & Light has successfully persuaded Florida’s regulators to end incentive programs that supported rooftop solar for homeowners and business owners. It also recommended that the state’s strong net metering program be ended as well. Now coincidentally – just days after HECO shareholders approved the merger – FPL, a chorus of other Florida utilities and Florida’s Attorney General came out strongly against popular financing programs that allow people who can’t afford the upfront cost of solar – to go solar.
Around that same time I made my own trip to Hawaii and learned the term – Aloha Spirit. The Aloha Spirit takes many forms – an attitude and friendly acceptance which the Hawaiian Islands are famous for; but also a powerful way to resolve any problem, accomplish any goal and even achieve any state of mind or body which you desire. I was surprised to learn that it’s even engrained in Hawaii’s statutes as a philosophy for public officials to remember when performing their duties.
I certainly wish Florida had something like that – a code – a golden rule. I can tell you one thing, if Florida has an Aloha Spirit, NextEra is crushing it when it comes to rooftop solar. I spent 12 years working in Florida’s solar industry, but last week when I landed on the Big Island I was anxiously pointing out all of the solar arrays on the rooftops to my wife. She laughed at me saying “It’s like you’ve never seen a solar array before.” The truth is – I had never seen that much solar before. It just seemed like everyone had it, what’s more the people I talked to who didn’t have it were either getting it or wanted it – in a bad way.
This week, stakeholders are responding to Florida regulators’ request for comments on how the state can do more to develop solar. Along with our industry partners at SEIA, we proposed the following plan so that the Sunshine State can start putting its plentiful, reliable solar resource to work:
- Continue the existing net metering program, it works.
- Update the outdated interconnection procedures to installation lower costs
- Develop a shared renewable energy program that can make solar energy widely accessible to more Florida consumers
- Adopt common sense rules to allow meter aggregation creating opportunities for landowners and farmers to be billed fairly when installing solar
- Adopt new incentive programs that encourage customer sited solar through purchases and leasing arrangements.
- Ensure that utilities are providing the best value by requiring competitive bidding of new utility scale solar.
Along with our coalition partners, we also helped deliver more than 5,000 petition signatures from Floridians who support solar growth. FPL’s own input for the Commission will show its willingness to lead on solar in Florida – and be symbolic for Hawaii’s future.
After a short stint in a renewable energy paradise, refreshed, with sun kissed skin and belly stuffed full of roadside coconut filled Malasadas, I am back in Florida. I flew into Palm Beach airport, just a few miles from NextEra’s Juno Beach headquarters. I couldn’t see a single solar covered roof from my window, no solar carports, no solar schools, no solar covered beer breweries like at Maui Brewing Company.
Thanks Hawaii for an awesome experience and for sharing the Aloha with this Florida solar guy. Humuhumunukunukuapua`a are much friendlier than the sharks in Florida.
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Justin Hoysradt is a Regional Manager for Vote Solar and lives in West Palm Beach Florida where he is actively involved in efforts to expand solar policy to include rooftop solar – his job is really hard but he can’t complain about the weather.