George Riley: Community solar works. Let’s encourage greater adoption


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Earlier this year, we at Conservatives for Clean Energy voiced our support as Florida Power and Light proposed an ambitious community solar program designed to bring clean energy to more Florida families and businesses. Last month, Duke Energy filed its own version of a community solar program with the Florida Public Service Commission, one that would expand solar options for its customers across the state. 

Community solar programs allow businesses, individuals, and even local governments to choose whether they would like to purchase some or all of the energy they use from solar. Participants pay a fixed rate, and in return they receive a monthly credit on their bill – a benefit that grows over time. Demand for this program has been so high that during the preregistration window, customers committed to purchase 130% of the program’s available solar capacity. 

While costs for solar installations have dropped nearly 90% over the last decade, markets like Florida where electric service is controlled by traditional utility providers have been slow to take advantage. However, the combination of low prices and vocal customers calling for cleaner options has utilities rethinking their approach and developing innovative programs like Duke’s Clean Energy Connection Program (CEC).

Duke has set aside a portion of the program for homeowners and renters, ensuring that regular customers who want a clean energy option have one available to them. Specifically, the CEC will dedicate enough solar power to support over 3,000 low-income families. For these customers, a 3-kW subscription means they will be meeting their needs through solar power while also saving money on their electric bills every year.

Solar advocacy groups like Vote Solar are celebrating these innovative solar projects because they recognize that energy costs can be a burden for families, and programs like Duke’s CEC can alleviate the financial strain while strengthening reliability. 

Duke even designed its program to avoid raising rates for any of its other customers who don’t participate. By adding more renewable energy into the company’s portfolio, the program is expected to save all customers money by lowering fuel and capacity costs, making the program a win-win for everyone.

In the past, the debate about renewable energy has been hyper-partisan and political. This should not be a partisan issue, and we believe it can and should be supported regardless of political party. Gov. Ron DeSantis understands the importance of moving Florida toward a clean energy future, saying he is “supportive of programs that will provide Floridians with greater access to affordable, clean energy which will help propel the State to a healthier future.” The Conservatives for Clean Energy believe Duke’s CEC program will do just that.

I am excited to see Duke take this step forward, embracing clean energy solutions while providing affordable options for its customers. I trust that members of the Public Service Commission will give this program their full support, sending a strong signal to customers and utilities alike that programs like the Clean Energy Connection are key in helping Florida continue to develop as a renewable energy leader.

George Riley is the executive director of Conservatives for Clean Energy.