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Archive for April, 2014

Duke Energy has been tipped into supplying the North Carolina Google Data Center with renewable energy.  Google is going to pay the power company a “Green Source Rider” for the clean electricity; in other words a tariff.  The Search Company said it made more sense for Duke to provide the renewable energy than to build it themselves.  Evidently, the plan is going to be used by other big Duke customers that want to go green.  Duke said it might match some of the applicants with third-party solar and wind suppliers through Power Purchase Agreements.  In all, 700 megawatts of solar could be added in Duke’s North Carolina territory alone.

Google may already be more invested in solar and wind than any other company.  But fortunately, there is competition for that honor.  Apple, Facebook, Walmart, IKEA and others are putting out $billions to power their shops with clean energy.  Facebook wanted clean energy for their data center in Iowa.  Their utility has now invested $1.9 billion in wind farms.  Of course we want to thank Duke but let’s not forget their environmental record; coal ash spills and eagle deaths on poorly located wind turbines.  North Carolina should boost Duke’s RPS requirement as part of the settlement for those offenses.

The term corporate power has not always been associated with good things.  The influence of corporate money and their lobbyists have usually worked against the interests of citizens, especially in delaying beneficial health regulations.  We are witnessing now the decline in influence of coal companies but the Goliaths of oil and gas are still standing.

Now the 21st century twist.  We have large corporations influencing a better choice of energy supplied by the entrenched electric utilities.  For years, concerned citizens and environmental groups have asked utilities to close down their coal and nuclear plants and “go solar.”  Corporate money still speaks the loudest but this time the voice is sweet.  Investor owned utilities are finally finding ways to get into the solar business and this is going to bring the cost of PV down even more.

What corporation is going to squeeze more solar out of Florida Power and Light?  Last week FPL introduced their own version of a Green Source Rider and we can only wish it had been the result of corporate pressure.  They’re going to see how many of their customers will be willing to pay an extra $9 on their monthly bills to finance solar energy projects.  A company spokesman said polling indicated that enough customers will volunteer to fund 2.4 megawatts of solar perhaps in three years.  FPL announced this program a short while after a bill designed to promote solar on commercial buildings such as warehouses and data centers was killed in the Florida legislature.

Only .06% of the FPL fuel mix currently comes from solar.  This modest pilot program on the backs of solar volunteers will hardly improve that percentage.  Combine this half-hearted initiative with the Florida legislators who oppose common-sense solar policies for businesses.  Add in the legislators who want to exempt Florida from the proposed EPA carbon pollution standards for new power plants.  This is corporate power in the sunshine state.

Sam Kendall

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