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Local Dems team up to reform energy legislation in FL | News

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Local Dems team up to reform energy legislation in FL

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- When it comes to alternative energy, Pinellas Park's PolyPack Inc. is ahead of the curve. The manufacturer of shrink wrap machines was racking up a hefty power bill before they decided to line the plant's roof with solar panels.

"Basically, we wanted to go green and number 2 we wanted to shave our electric bill," said Ed James, PolyPack's electrical engineering manager.

As a result, the company is saving big.

Now, U.S. Representative Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) and State Representative Dwight Dudley (D-St. Petersburg) are teaming up proposing new legislation hoping to encourage other companies to invest in solar.

"Thirty states right now have renewable energy standards and goals, Florida does not," said Rep. Castor at a joint news conference Friday morning in St. Petersburg.

Castor and Dudley want Florida to deregulate renewable energy meaning companies or even individuals could theoretically sell excess solar power to their neighbors.

"We're not just appealing to Republicans or Democrats. It's not a red or a blue issue... it's a green issue," said State Rep. Dudley.

A spokesperson for Duke Energy says while the company supports investment in solar energy, it fears deregulation could be problematic in Florida, potentially destabilizing the price of electricity.

Representative Dudley also wants to level the playing field when it comes to big electric utilities like Duke Energy by proposing a repeal of the state's advance recovery fee which allowed Duke to charge billions up front to replace their Crystal River Nuclear Plant, plans that never materialized.

"The hard-working Floridians that are paying for power, don't want to be investors. They just want to have electricity," said Dudley.

Sterling Ivy of Duke Energy says the company understands why advance recovery fees are a tough sell given the current circumstances. He says the loss of revenue would put an immediate end to any plans for future nuclear power plants in Florida.

Back at PolyPack, where solar energy is key, company representatives say it's all about the bottom line.

"I'm paying about a third of what I was paying before," said James.

The solar panels are expected to pay for themselves in just five to six years.

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