5=Q&A

Perfetti and Solar Choice: Grassroots drive to rooftop power

By JOHN HOWELL The Daily Fray
February 25, 2015 12:00 pm

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Perfetti:

Tory Perfetti is chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice, a coalition of political groups, business leaders and clean energy supporters. Their goal is a state amendment in 2016 that sets solar energy policy. If the initiative wins, businesses and homes will be able to generate up to 2 megawatts of solar and sell it to others. Floridians for Solar Choice needs 683,149 signatures on a petition by Feb. 1, 2016, to put the solar question to voters.

Perfetti, a Tampa resident and former candidate for state representative, is also Florida director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom. He took a few questions on the telephone from The Daily Fray:

• Why not pursue a legislative solution for solar energy policy instead of amending the state constitution?

"There have been many attempts over many different sessions to make solar energy policy more of a reality and it’s never gotten any headway. So it has been attempted, multiple times upon multiple times. And it's just never gotten anywhere."

• Looking at 2014, what lessons can you expect Floridians for Solar Choice to learn, and possibly apply, from the successful land and water amendment, and from the unsuccessful initiative for medical marijuana?

"Amendment 1 demonstrates that when you’re not increasing taxes, when you're not forcing poor economic mandates on people, that in Florida, we vote for good economic environmental policy. So it’s what we’ve been saying all along. When the free market is involved, when you’re not increasing taxes on people, on the citizens of Florida, they do vote for policies that are looking out to protect the environment while also representing free market, freedom of choice and representing the pro-business and consumer community.

"As far as Amendment 2 and marijuana, I don’t think there is really a lot of comparison to be had considering they’re in two very separate fields. Here’s an issue with a very big difference from ours. I like to call it multi-partisan. Ours is a multi-partisan ballot initiative where everybody on all sides of the line have had overwhelming support. There is nothing, nothing, that is making anybody give up their convictions with this. This is good policy. It allows you to participate in making a good policy law. This is a very good thing for the citizens of Florida regardless of party and they [utility companies] know that."

• What forms of support will the campaign seek from elected officials?

"We will be seeking support broadly across the political spectrum, asking legislators to come on board and say that they support this and that it’s time for a change in Florida’s energy policy and to open it up to an all-of-the-above free market policy."

• What sorts of opposition do you expect to take shape from the utility companies?

"I don’t know what type of opposition they’re going to provide. I’d like to think they’re going to take a look at this and see the demand by the Florida citizens, the Florida residents and by the business community. As you’ve seen the Florida Retail Federation has come out and supported this as well. And I'd like to think the utility companies are going to take a look at all of that support, and all of that [solar] demand and say, this is good policy, we welcome it, and let’s see how we can become a part of it."

• What are the expectations for jobs?

"When you allow the free market to involve itself into an industry, and you have demand like there is for solar to be added to energy portfolios for individual businesses and consumers, you’re going to have jobs created, no doubt. And these are good jobs. Many of these jobs are good paying jobs and [it] will benefit Florida in general."

• Campaigns can take strange turns. The membership in your coalition seems to represent a wide, and historically combative, political cross-section in the state. Floridians care about their electric bills, but is solar choice sufficient to keep the peace and keep everyone united?

"I think by the press conference [Jan. 14] we demonstrated 100 percent on message that it’s across the board. People are understanding that they don’t have to give up any part of their convictions or ideologies to support a great policy for the state of Florida. And that we will stay together in this to the end."


land5-2.jpgFlorida Solar At A Glance

There are roughly 360 solar companies in Florida, employing 4,000 across sectors such as manufacturing, installation, project development and distribution. ... In 2013, Florida installed 26 megawatts of solar electric capacity, ranking 18th nationally. ... About 6,300 Florida homes have solar photo-voltaic systems that produce energy from rooftop panels, up from about 500 in 2008. ... There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 26,400 homes. ... The state receives some of the highest levels of solar radiation for energy production in the country. ... Natural gas is the No. 1 source of energy in Florida to generate electricity; solar accounts for less than one-third of 1 percent. (Sources: Solar Energy Industries Association, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Information Administration.)


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