Commissioner Putnam, I’m Hungry for Leadership

Stephen Smith | February 27, 2014 | Energy Policy, Solar
I’m so sick of political doublespeak in Washington and Tallahassee. It’s time that we the people get serious about holding our elected representatives accountable. Here is one that needs our attention: Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam.

Adam is a bright and very ambitious young man who wants to be Florida’s Governor one day. He was a rising star in Congress and then came back to Florida to run for statewide office as the Agriculture Commissioner. He brought the orphaned Florida State Energy office under the Department of Agriculture, because newly elected Governor Rick Scott had no interest in energy issues (and still doesn’t). Adam’s good intentions to try to advance real energy policy in Florida were quickly dashed by the big utilities’ influence, which now controls his energy agenda. In fact his Chief of Staff worked for Progress Energy and his General Council is married to a Florida Power and Light lobbyist. Sadly, in order to justify the lack of leadership on his watch, he claims there is “no appetite” for renewables in Florida. (See Clip)

I’m sending an open letter to Commissioner Putnam asking him to demonstrate leadership on these issues.  You can send a letter of your own below.

Dear Commissioner Putnam,

As cabinet level Commissioner with responsibility for the Florida State Energy Office, I look to you for leadership on energy issues in our state. I strongly disagree with your statement that the “appetite is not here” for growing renewables in Florida. In fact, the numbers show that an overwhelming number of Floridians support expanding solar in the state. What’s actually missing is leadership and good policy, much of which could come from your office. A prime example is your failure to target the biggest barrier to the growth of the Florida solar energy market: the tangible property tax against solar equipment. Solar industry leaders have met with you and attempted to explain that this burdensome tax is stifling the solar market. Your response has been merely window dressing. You have advocated for the commercial property tax relief despite knowing full well that this is the wrong tax to target as it does very little to allow solar leasing programs to expand in Florida. A successful model for solar expansion in other states has been for companies to install solar on customers’ homes and lease the solar energy systems to customers at prices lower than their current bills. In Florida, solar companies cannot currently make the numbers add up because Florida taxes the solar equipment as “tangible property” at a high assessed value. This kills the market and the job growth that would come with it.  It is time to get serious about growing the solar market in Florida. I ask for your support in adding an abatement of the tangible property tax to the ballot this fall as a referendum. Let the people vote on this important issue. If we are going to do real tax reform aimed at growing the Florida solar market and the jobs that come with it, let’s focus on the tax that really matters. Anything less is just political games. 

If you’re as fed up as I am, click here to send a letter of your own to Commissioner Putnam asking him to get serious about growing Florida’s solar market.

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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