George Riley: Community solar brings clean energy to Florida families, businesses

Duke Energy Florida -- Columbia Solar Power Plant
“The Clean Energy Connection Program is delivering on what our customers want — affordable clean energy options."

Earlier this year, we at Conservatives for Clean Energy voiced our support as Florida Power and Light proposed an ambitious community solar program designed to bring clean energy to more Florida families and businesses.

Last month, Duke Energy filed their own version of a community solar program with the Florida Public Service Commission that would expand solar options for its customers across the state.

The program allows businesses, individuals, and even local governments to choose whether they would like to purchase some or subject to availability all of the energy they use from solar.

Participants pay a fixed rate, and in return, they receive a monthly credit on their bill that will grow over time. Demand for this program has been so high that during the preregistration window the utility’s industrial, commercial, and educational customers committed to purchase 130% of the program’s available solar capacity.

While costs for solar installations have dropped nearly 90% in the last decade, markets like Florida where electric service is controlled by traditional utility providers have been slow to take advantage.

However, the combination of low prices and vocal customers calling for cleaner options, has utilities rethinking their approach and developing innovative programs like the CEC.

Duke has set aside a portion of the program for homeowners and renters, to ensure regular customers who want a clean energy option have one available to them. Specifically, the CEC will dedicate enough solar power to support over 3000 low-income families.

For these customers, a 3-kW subscription means they will be meeting their needs with solar power while also saving about $25 per year on electric bills.

“The current health and economic crisis is exacerbating the financial stresses of Florida’s hardworking families,” said Katie Chiles Ottenweller, Southeast Director for Vote Solar. “Duke’s new solar program will help alleviate the undue burden of electric bills on Florida’s low-income residents with guaranteed savings and dedicated capacity.”

Duke Energy even designed this program so that all customers will enjoy lower rates than they would otherwise over the life of the program.

By adding more renewable energy into the company’s portfolio, the program is expected to save all customers money by lowering fuel and capacity costs to operate other power plants making the program a win-win for everyone.

“The Clean Energy Connection Program is delivering on what our customers want — affordable clean energy options,” said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida state president. “ … And this program gives customers, especially those who may not have the ability to install solar at home, a compelling alternative to rooftop panels.”

In the past, the debate about renewable energy has been hyperpartisan and political. We believe that this should not be a partisan issue and can and should be supported regardless of political party.

Gov. Ron DeSantis understands the importance of moving Florida toward a clean energy future saying he is, “supportive of programs that will provide Floridians with greater access to affordable, clean energy which will help propel the State to a healthier future.”

The Clean Energy Connection program will do just that.

I am excited to see Duke take this step forward in embracing clean energy solutions while providing affordable options for their customers.

I trust the Public Service Commission will give this program their full support and signal to customers and utilities alike that programs like the Clean Energy Connection are key in helping Florida continue to develop as a renewable energy leader.


George Riley is State Director of Conservatives for Clean Energy-Florida.

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