SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

May 2017



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1. The Sunshine State is finally on its way to becoming the “Solar State.”

2. Corporate Social Responsibility and the Demand for Renewable Energy

3. Open Letter About the Nuclear Train Wrecks in GA & SC


1. The Sunshine State is finally on its way to becoming the “Solar State.”
SB 90 unanimously approved

a4-approvedLast week the Florida Legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 90 to implement Amendment 4 – a constitutional amendment that 73 percent of Florida voters approved on the August primary ballot. It aims to reduce the cost of solar power by lowering burdensome taxes on solar systems. This is a huge step toward a clean energy future and is a testament to the power of the grassroots campaign supported by a diverse coalition of hundreds of organizations and thousands of volunteers.

“We are pleased to see The Sunshine State reduce barriers to solar,” said Susan Glickman, Florida Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which was an original founding member of the grassroots campaign Floridians for Solar Choice. “Voters in Florida spoke loudly in support of solar last year both when they passed Amendment 4 and when they rejected the utility-backed Amendment 1. Many thanks to the Florida Legislature, especially bill sponsors Senator Jeff Brandes and Representative Ray Rodrigues, for seeing this important issue across the finish line.”

Provisions in the bill were negotiated to accommodate concerns about impacts to fiscally constrained counties with existing solar projects as well as disclosure requirements, which some lawmakers offered under the guise of consumer protections. Provisions in the bill include the following:

Reduced Taxes – Florida already exempted 100 percent of the value of a solar installation from real property taxes for residential properties in 2013, and now 80 percent of the value for commercial properties will also be exempt. In addition, 80 percent of the value of a solar installation is also exempt from the tangible personal property tax for both residential and commercial properties. In particular, the tangible personal property tax has been identified by solar developers as driving up the cost of solar power in Florida.

When – The tax reductions for commercial properties applies to solar systems installed on or after January 1, 2018.

Where – The commercial tax exemptions do not apply to solar projects planned for installation in a “fiscally constrained county” that have asked for a land-use change prior to December 31, 2017. This means that some larger installations already built or expected to be built in the near-term will not qualify for the exemption. Solar installations on military bases are not subject to this limitation. The exact language in the bill can be found here.

What Else – The implementation bill also includes disclosure requirements in solar agreements for all rooftop solar systems to ensure a fully informed consumer. While the requirements are lengthy, the majority of these requirements already exist in standard disclosure documents, but solar installers will need to review their contracts to ensure they meet these standards.

Now SB 90 goes to Governor Scott’s desk where he is expected to sign it.


2. Corporate Social Responsibility and the Demand for Renewable Energy

An overview of corporate clean energy procurement and projects in the Southeast

earth-hand-iconCorporate Social Responsibility (CSR) refers to a company’s voluntary commitment to responsible business practices that benefit society, and accounts for the social and environmental impacts a business has in the course of its operations. Many companies have set ambitious sustainability goals as part of meeting their commitment to the environment. In fact, by 2016, 33 U.S.-based, mostly Fortune 500 companies were committed to 100 percent renewable energy, and 71 Fortune 100 companies and 215 Fortune 500 companies had a renewable energy target, a sustainability target, or both. Such goals are not only helpful in winning over customers, but also have the added benefit of cutting costs, for example by using less energy or reducing the amount of packaging used.

Renewable energy contracts for nearly six gigawatts (GW) of capacity have been announced in the past four years, and it is estimated that the top 50 corporate purchasers of solar and wind energy in the U.S. will add over 17 GW of renewables by 2020. Unfortunately, the Southeast lags behind the rest of the country in the 2017 Corporate Clean Energy Index, which measures how easy it is for companies to procure renewable energy in all 50 states. The Northeast, Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions were the highest ranked, generally due to supportive policies and enabling market structures. While there are a few noteworthy wind and solar projects from corporations in the Southeast, our region could better take advantage of low wind and solar prices to meet corporate demand for renewables.

Some major corporate renewable energy projects in our region include:

  • The Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East, a new, 208 megawatt (MW), 104 turbine wind farm in Elizabeth City, North Carolina that will power an Amazon web services data center in Virginia.
  • Apple’s three solar projects in North Carolina, including a 100-acre solar farm with 20MW of capacity across from its data center in Maiden, a 20MW solar farm in Conover and a 5 MW farm in Claremont.
  • A deal between Wal-Mart and Alabama Power, under which the utility is contracting with a developer to construct a 72MW solar farm and then contracting to sell most of that power to Wal-Mart.

For more information on corporate renewable energy projects in our region and links to further reading, please see the full article on SACE’s Engaging on Energy page!


3. Open Letter About the Nuclear Train Wrecks in GA & SC

SACE’s executive director “gets real” on failing nuke projects

ga-trainwreck-snap-300x202Have you ever seen the commercial that ends with the saying “What’s in YOUR wallet?” Well if you are an electric power customer in Georgia and South Carolina, the answer is a nuclear power train wreck!

Let’s have a little southern straight talk about what has been happening while you have been trying to make an honest living. Some of the boys down the road hatched a plan to make money at your expense. They are going to tell you its really complicated and trust them, it will all work out just fine. But don’t you believe them for a minute. They’ve created a mess and you are paying for their mistakes.

Here is what you need to know – the boys in suits at Georgia Power and South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) schemed up a way to make more money for their stockholders in 2006 by announcing plans to build fancy new nuclear power plants. They talked the boys in public power into joining the scheme. Next they went to their state legislators and had them pass a bill that basically said all the financial risk of building these great big power plants would be put on the ratepayers, like you and me, but all the profits would go to the stockholders in the companies and the executives would get big bonuses. You know the drill. See, they make money on every dollar they spend, so the more they spend, the more they make. The only problem is, it’s your money.

So once they had the politicians in on the deal, all they needed were the folks at the Public Service Commissions (PSC) to “rubber stamp” the scheme. Our PSCs are supposed to protect you from these monopoly utility schemes and keep rates low and the lights on; however, let’s just say they’ve literally been asleep at the switch. They ignored all the red flags that we and other folks raised about the risks of building these big power plants and look what happened: the nuclear projects have gone billions of dollars over budget and are years behind schedule. And, because of these cost overruns and delays, your electric bill is going up, and is going to continue to go up, with no end in sight.

If this was not bad enough, it’s recently gotten a whole lot worse. This is the “train wreck” part. A big Japanese company called Toshiba bought the U.S. company Westinghouse. It was Westinghouse that designed and agreed to build a new design of nuclear reactors that have never operated anywhere in the world. When they started falling behind schedule, Westinghouse executives talked Toshiba into buying the companies that were slow in doing the work. Before long Toshiba/Westinghouse about owned it all. When the costs kept going up, even the utility boys got nervous and soon the blame game began. And then came the lawsuits and Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy. Oh, but it gets worse: it appears that Westinghouse and Toshiba have made promises they can not fulfill, and the bookkeeping is so bad at Toshiba that the big accountants will not stand by the company’s audit. They may have to go out of business. What a train wreck!

How do we stop the train wreck?

First the PSC in both states needs to protect you and demand a transparent review of this project that is open to the public to see if it even makes sense to continue building these things. There is no reason to keep throwing YOUR good money after bad. They need to force the utilities’ stockholders to have some skin in the game. Up until this point, all this bad stuff has been happening and the utility stockholders have been making money at your expense. Spending someone else’s money is a sure-fire way to guarantee no accountability.

There is a saying, “if you are not mad, you are not paying attention.” A whole bunch of us need to get mad, fast so sign our petition TODAY! And in the meantime, we’ve got to hold on tight to our wallets!