Note: The information contained in this periodical weblog may be outdated. This was my personal weblog published before January 1, 2015. Since then I have been the co-owner and Principal Solar Designer at Florida Solar Design Group.

3 Comments

  1. I completely agree…..I had 6 clients with a real desire to go solar who didn’t stand a chance against the “speed typists”! Great incentive…but only for the few with speed typing skills! I was personally a casualty of the first Florida state rebate program and eventually compensated at approx. 50% of the original dangled carrot! Florida should not just be leading the nation, but we should be leading the globe in solar innovation!

  2. Below is a letter I wrote to the head of the Solar Rebate Pilot Program at FPL. This program is destroying the PV industry in Florida in its first year, as intended by the Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs). I have worked with government programs in all my life. My grandfather was in the House and Senate of another State for 12 years, so I understand State government, somewhat. I discovered the State Solar Rebate Program was unfunded in July of 2009 and badgered the Governors Energy Office into publishing this fact in August, as was required by law, but the Governors Energy Office continued to accept applications after the funds were exhausted for political reasons and thousands of Floridians lost $30,000,000+- and this gave the alternative energy industry a black eye. FPL, alone, has a lobbyist in Tallahassee for every 4 members of the House and Senate and spent $4,500,000 in campaign contributions in the 2010 election cycle alone. Why does a monopoly need to spend so much captive ratepayers money on Political campaigns and lobbying? The answer seems obvious, if you research this program.

    I have never seen such a duplicitous fraud by collusion between government and a private industry, against another private industry, on such a broad front and grand scale, in my life. Note that FPL attempted to repeal “net metering” (the law that requires them to exchange electricity, kWh for kWh, at retail, with a privately owned PV system) in the 2011 legislative session. This would have made PV impossible to economically justify in Florida, destroyed the value of all presently installed PV systems, and virtually eliminated PV in Florida as a similar law has done in Georgia at the political insistence of Southern Company, owner of Georgia Power. Mississippi and Alabama are two of eight states in the US without net metering or a similar arrangement. Mississippi Power and Alabama Power are owned by Southern Company. No investor owned utility company has seen a solar panel it liked.

    Dear Mr. Dominguez (Director of the FPL rebate program)

    There are approximately 4-600 photovoltaic rebates issued under the solar rebate pilot program each year for ALL ratepayers of the five IOUs in Florida. FPL will not release the exact number they have issued. I do not know how many ratepayers the IOUs service, but I suspect it is a large portion of the approximately 19,000,000 of Florida’s population. So, the odds of receiving a rebate are probably in the neighborhood of thousands to tens of thousands to one, but since FPL stops accepting applications when that days funds allotment are exhausted, not the funds for the funding year as required, the number of Floridians that apply will never be known. I suspect FPL knows just how many ratepayers are logged in and attempting to apply at 8:30 AM the morning the rebates are released every few months. Issuing multiple application dates, when sufficient applicants apply for all available funds for that funding year on the first date available is a violation of the program rules. FPL is running fast and loose with ratepayer funds and making and changing the rules as they go along to discourage the Florida consumer from participating in alternative energy.

    Universally, all solar companies in Florida offer contracts contingent on receiving the rebate as they must, simply to be competitive. The industry should stand up to the IOUs and their political hacks and stop this practice, but they really have little choice when the IUOs offer $20,000 of free money. These ratepayers will never buy a PV system for the actual price as they are intoxicated by the dream of free money. These systems cost $20,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars; can you imagine Caterpillar running a “half price sale” on front end loaders that cost tens of thousands of dollars? People are contacting solar companies, not because of their interest in photovoltaic systems, but simple to become able to apply for the free money. People who would not consider solar, except for the free money. These people are not serious about alternative energy, they are only interested in free money.

    It costs the same in time and money for a company to sell a successful contract as an unsuccessful one. Is this the intent of the rebate program? I believe so. As funds have been released, the time for completing the application has been cut in half, each time; from 15 minutes on the first release, which speaks volumes in and of itself, to 90 SECONDS on the forth release on May 3rd which is absurd to be called an incentive program. You deny that solar companies are using auto-fill software, but I know it is true and not illegal, therefore a certainty. I defy you the type the five page application in ninety seconds. Solar companies will use any means necessary to capture as many rebates as possibly; if they don’t, they simply want receive any rebates, thus no sales. I believe not a single ratepayer has successfully applied, for themselves, and succeeded. All the time FPL is discouraging them from giving their log in information to their solar contractor.

    This is nothing but a lottery without the cost of a ticket offered every few months to keep consumers focused on the free money and ignoring the actual merits of photovoltaic systems and keep the alternative energy industry chasing their tails trying to live in this artificial market and the negative propaganda of the IOUs paid for by ratepayers.

    “silly” is being polite, market manipulation is the truth. I call it a cruel joke on Florida ratepayers who pay for this program, in addition to their electric bill, and pay the IOUs, I read, 19.1% to “market” and administer this program. Nearly $5,000,000 a year for FPL; that is thousands of dollars per rebate program check written each year; please correct me if I misunderstood what I have read as I find this unfathomable.

    This is clearly unsustainable for the PV industry, at large. If this current circumstance is indicative of the success of the industry at large, and the companies represented, then about 1000+- PV systems will be sold, each year, all installers in the State, for the remainder of the program; which I am told may continue through 2019. There are approximately 2-300 serious PV installers in Florida, up from three dozen just five years ago; therefore there are about a half a dozen PV rebate sales per year per installer, average, and the few that buy without the rebate. This is not only clearly untenable for this industry in Florida, but does not meet the stated goal of the statute nor the intent of the PSC, being “The intent of FPL’s residential and business PV pilot programs is to encourage the purchase and installation of PV systems by providing customers with rebates.”

    Please don’t attempt to divert attention as to the success of PV to other issues as they are only relevant on a level marketing playing field. PV is selling below the price of 2010, about half, without the rebate, when thousands of Floridians purchased PV for higher prices than presently. The rebate program is a reaction to this clear acceptance by Florida consumers, and it’s value, and the IOUs clearly recognized that PV was growing. The US is the fastest growing PV market in the world. California, with a population approximately twice that of Florida has over ten times the number of PV systems and probably hundreds of times the number of kW and all of Florida is more productive , per sq. meter of panel, than most of California. Florida should be a Mecca for PV, but the entire PV industry, nationwide, realizes and states, that the powerful investor owned utilities and the all pervasive political influence they have in Florida, will continue to stifle alternative energy expansion in Florida. As the old saying goes “anyone who thinks competition is good is either a fool or a liar”. FPL is no fool.

    Parity in electricity costs with the Florida IOUs has been achieved currently, without the rebate, and with a 20 year FHA Energy loan, without the rebate, the IRR is even higher. In fact, the Internal Rate of Return on a residential PV system is in the low teens, without the rebate, and pays for itself in about ten to twelve years, the average home ownership in Florida, and adds tens of thousands of dollars of value to the resale value of the property, currently, and at the time of sale, and fixes the consumers cost for that portion of their electricity during that time. Clearly, there is no financial need for the rebate for consumers to recognize the value of PV. The rebate just continues the illusion that the rebate is necessary to allow PV to be economical viable and who wants to pay $20,000 more than their neighbor? Clear marketing manipulation and negative propaganda aimed at the alternative energy industry allowed by the PSC, funded by ratepayers, and distributed by the IOUs.

    Tell you what Mr. Dominquez; you stay away from our business, drop the rebate and any other interference such as bad press and misinformation, and we want interfere in your business; except to make significant inroads into your market share.

    Just write Tallahassee and tell them you want out. What possibly motivation could FPL have to be involved in the PV industry; please tell me?

    Yours Truly,

    Silence Dogood

  3. Author

    Look for an upcoming post on how a handful of solar contractors managed to monopolize most of the rebate money, securing far more rebate approvals than any other contractor. Something is amiss.

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