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Solar Choice's colorful spectrum widens; 100,000 petitions signed

By JOHN HOWELL The Daily Fray
February 17, 2015 9:19 pm

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Floridians for Solar Choice announced nine endorsements Tuesday in Tallahassee. In a nod to parity, the new supporters for a solar energy amendment in 2016 were presented alphabetically. But in a grassroots eco movement, few boots on the ground can make a bigger footprint than the Sierra Club.

“We are encouraging members and supporters to sign the petition [and] enlist groups and activists to campaign in favor of the initiative,” said Kent Bailey of the Florida Sierra Club executive committee.

Solar Choice said roughly 1,000 volunteers helped gather 100,000 signatures for a petition since the coalition launched one month ago.

Joining the push for 683,149 signatures by Feb 1, 2016: roughly 30,000 Florida Sierra Club volunteers. Many are fresh off a victorious campaign trail. “This will be similar in operation to the recent [Amendment 1] campaign that was also supported by Sierra,” said Bailey, who is chair of the Tampa Bay group.

The Florida Sierra Club has 16 groups from the Panhandle to the Keys. Clean energy is part of its DNA and a cornerstone of its legislative platform, which is pitched in Tallahassee by a lobbyist. The seven-member executive committee officially signed off in a unanimous vote Feb. 14, Bailey said.

Solar Choice’s rainbow of political, social and business alliances added some bold new colors: Greenpeace USA, The Tea Party Network, Clean Water Action, Evangelical Environmental Network, IDEAS for Us, Environment Florida, Physicians for Social Responsibility Florida and ReThink Energy Florida.

“Saving the planet is in everyone's best interest, as is removing barriers to the development of 21st century energy solutions,” Bailey said in an email. “The opportunity to build bridges of cooperation between persons of widely divergent political views is welcome.”

Beside signatures, Solar Choice will need ballot approval from the state Supreme Court. The measure would allow entrepreneurs and property owners to generate and sell solar-powered electricity from systems up to 2 megawatts. Under state law, only utilities can sell electricity directly to consumers.

“We are pleased by the strong support we’ve received,” said Tory Perfetti, chairman of Solar Choice and Florida director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom. “In roughly one month, we have received thousands of petitions from more than 170 Florida cities from Altoona to Zephyrhills with more coming in every day.”

Solar Choice also estimates the coalition probably needs to raise $8 million to $10 million to counter campaign pushback from old guard utilities, including FPL and Duke Energy.


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