The Solar Uprising Begins

Guest Blog | April 14, 2014 | Energy Policy, Solar
Floridians stood up for solar in a major way at last Thursday’s Solar Uprising Rally in Tallahassee, FL.  With over 300 people in attendance, loudly calling for the state to adopt policies that support solar power in the Sunshine State, we made quite an impression.  Now, it remains to be seen whether Florida legislators will heed the call for action.

Students and solar proponents from across the state, including as far away as Miami, traveled to the Capitol to make their voices heard. Energized by great local bands and abundant sunshine, the crowd brought a lot of spirit to the steps of the Capitol. In the crowd, there were students supporting solar as the cleaner energy source for their future, solar installers whose livelihood depends on an active solar market, and consumers who believed they should have the ability to install solar on their homes as they wish.  Our fantastic speakers highlighted all of these perspectives and more in their comments.

Student speakers LaQuinta Alexander and Jabari Mickels

Student speakers and younger voices lent a lot of passion to their arguments for solar and for the younger generation being involved, engaging in the political process to make sure they are represented in Tallahassee.  Justin Vandenbroeck, an engineering student from the group IDEAS For Us, spoke about having to leave Florida since the state’s market no longer can support his work with a solar energy company. Dream Defenders Jabari Mickles and LaQuinta Alexander described an imperiled future for communities that bear the burden of our current dirty energy policies through high utility bills and adverse health impacts, and spoken word poet and FIU student Anthony Paz called for people power to make transformative changes to our current system. Despite their urgency, the message was very positive: Chris Castro described the moment as a crisis leading to opportunity.

We also heard from Tallahassee locals who are leading by example: Pastor Brant Copeland of the solar-equipped First Presbyterian Church and Tallahassee Commissioner Scott Maddox who reinforced the need for leadership on this issue, encouraged people to pay attention to the candidates, and called on the state leadership to serve as more of a partner.

Former Governor Charlie Crist

Ultimately, we need policy changes that will make solar power development a reality in the state.  There are many policy tools available to make this happen, ranging from implementing requirements like an Renewable Energy Standard, favorable tax policy, and removing other barriers that would allow market forces to naturally grow the state’s solar market. Unfortunately, under the current administration Florida has been unwilling to explore any of these. In the current session one such measure, the tangible personal property tax abatement, has been held back by utility influence and poor leadership.  We profiled the hurdles facing this measure last week.

As a non-partisan non-profit organization [501(c)], SACE does not endorse candidates or elected officials; however we do call attention to leadership or lack thereof on clean energy issues consistent with our mission.  In addition to some local elected officials, we invited both of the leading gubernatorial candidates, Governor Rick Scott and former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, to attend the rally and share their thoughts and plans for unlocking Florida’s solar market.  Governor Scott did not attend. Former Governor Crist did attend the rally and spoke about the need to develop solar in the state and aptly noted the lack of leadership at all levels that is needed to ensure this happens.

Debbie Dooley of the Green Tea Coalition

Debbie Dooley, Founder of the Green Tea Coalition and member of the Tea Party Patriots, chided Florida for falling behind her home state of Georgia in solar installation, saying that Georgia might be more deserving of the Sunshine State moniker.   In Georgia, she noted their successful attempts to overcome monopoly domination by the utilities, and encouraged Governor Scott to show leadership on the issue, proving that support for solar crosses party lines and is an important part of a functioning free market.

To conclude the rally, and make sure the message was delivered loud and clear, students symbolically voted for solar and carried a ballot box through the Capitol to Scott’s office, where they delivered the votes with the message that solar matters to their generation.   As SACE Executive Director Stephen Smith concluded, “New Rule: You cannot be the governor of the Sunshine State if you do not support solar power!”

The Solar Uprising didn’t stop in Tallahassee at the conclusion of the rally.  This event was only the beginning of this movement.  We will continue doing events such as these in states throughout the Southeast and growing the movement in support of solar power.  Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter for news of the next event – the Solar Uprising may be coming to you soon!

 Visit our Facebook gallery of photos from the Solar Uprising Rally for more great pictures and follow events at #SolarUprising !

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