In Sunshine State, Big Energy Blocks Solar Power

In Environment, States On

Those donations include contributions to every member of the Senate and House leadership. The recipient of the most utility money since 2010 is Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014 re-election campaign, which took in more than $1.1 million through two political action committees.

“Why don’t we have a bigger solar industry in Florida?” asked Mike Antheil, a West Palm Beach lobbyist who represents solar companies. “The answer is simple. Every kilowatt of solar you produce on your roof is one less kilowatt that the utilities can sell you.”

The state’s largest utilities declined to comment on specific questions related to this article.

In an email, Duke Energy spokesperson Sterling Ivey said the company could not comment “since there is pending/proposed legislative bills that we are actively monitoring.”

Cherie Jacobs, a spokesperson for Tampa Electric, or TECO, said: “We participate in the political process, we support both parties, and we support candidates who focus on building the economy and on creating jobs.”

FPL spokesperson Alys Daly wrote in an email that the company supports “customers who want to install their own solar panels, and we take special care to serve the specialized needs of our solar customers.”

With little support in Tallahassee, a coalition of conservative and liberal groups hopes to make Florida friendlier to rooftop solar energy with a 2016 ballot initiative. Before that happens, though, Florida’s four largest power companies may see their influence grow. There’s proposed legislation circulating in Tallahassee now that would stop homeowners from selling extra energy created from solar back to utility companies, perhaps the biggest blow yet to Florida’s fledgling solar industry.

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