Update: On Wednesday, March 11, the Florida Chapter of Americans For Prosperity (AFP) held a press conference on the topic of solar energy. A reporter asked if the chapter was speaking against the ballot initiative, communications director Andres Malave said, “Absolutely not. We’re talking about the policy initiatives in general.” State director Chris Hudson added, “Currently, we do not have a position on that initiative… We don’t have a thought specifically about the initiative.” However, days before the press conference AFP sent an email to state supporters saying the ballot initiative is about “money, and using government and taxpayers to prop up the solar industry.”
Floridians for Solar Choice, a recently formed alliance of conservatives, libertarians, and environmentalists, launched a ballot initiative earlier this month that would allow voters in the 2016 election to vote on whether or not property owners who generate solar electricity can sell the power directly to other ratepayers.
The coalition is made up of Conservatives for Energy Freedom, the Florida Retail Federation, the Christian Coalition, the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, and the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association. The Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida and the Libertarian Party of Florida are also supportive of the ballot initiative.
This collection of parties, while disagreeing on most political issues, all agree on wanting to open up the electricity market so solar energy can compete with the major utilities in the state, including Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light.
Tom Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice, told The Daily Fray he has been seeking support across the entire political spectrum in order to change Florida’s energy policy and “open it up to an all-of-the-above free market policy.”
At the press conference announcing the ballot initiative earlier this month, Alex Snitker, the Libertarian Party of Florida Vice President, said,
“Who is the opposition? The opposition is the people that are profiting off of the current monopoly they have right now… One of the things libertarians complain about a lot of times is government-sponsored monopolies. I can’t think of a better example then what we currently have in Florida right now.”
One organization missing from this coalition, and whose sole mission is to take action “every day on behalf of the free market movement”, is Americans For Prosperity (AFP). AFP is the grassroots organization funded by the billionaire fossil-fuel industrialists Charles and David Koch. The Koch brother’s operation, including AFP, intends to spend $889 million in the run-up to the 2016 elections.
At a press conference hosted by AFP at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on January 15, Brent Gardner, AFP’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs, said he couldn’t offer comments regarding the solar initiative in Florida because he was unfamiliar with the details. Instead, he said to direct questions to the AFP chapter in Florida.
Several messages were left with Chris Hudson, the Florida State Director for AFP, to get the organization’s position on the ballot initiative and were not returned. As of January 28, AFP Florida’s twitter account (@AFPFlorida), Facebook page, and their “Newsroom” page on the website have not addressed the conservative and libertarian organizations joining Floridians for Solar Choice.
While it might seem odd that AFP is staying silent on this initiative in Florida, especially a grassroots movement that intends to fight for the free market, the organization is instead just used at the local and state level to mirror Koch Industries’ lobbying agenda. And it is the position of the Koch brothers and their fossil-fuel corporate allies to oppose renewable energy – even if that means ignoring their own free market ideology.
In 2013, Georgia public service commissioners witnessed Tea Party Republicans and environmental activist groups unite to encourage the passage of a solar photovoltaic program – which was opposed by Southern Power’s subsidiary in the state, Georgia Power. The Green Tea Party Coalition’s goal was to fight traditional utilities’ market power by pushing other sources of energy into the state.
The state commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of the electrical generation plan requiring Georgia Power to increase its solar power capacity by 525 megawatts by the end of 2016.
After the vote took place, Commissioner Lauren “Bubba” McDonald said,
“I’ve got grandchildren that, 20 years from now, I hope that they can look back as we are graded on what we have done and say, ‘You know what, my grandfather was on the Georgia Public Service Commission in 2013 and because of some issues that he took grasp of, we’ve got good, reliable, clean energy that we can depend on in the state of Georgia.”
More of the Floridians for Solar Choice press conference can be viewed here: