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Gubernatorial Race Shines Light on Solar Energy in Sunshine State

The Sunshine State gets less than one percent of its energy from the sun. Most of its energy comes from natural gas, which it gets from out of state.

Stephen Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says the price of solar is coming down, and its use is growing in other southeastern states. But not in Florida."Florida's Public Service Commission largely is only doing what big utility companies want, which isn't to encourage solar", Smith said. "And we don't have leadership through the governor or Legislature. And therefore none of the tools the other states have used to really grow the solar market have been available in Florida."

Buck Martinez of Florida Power and Light says economics, not state policy is the issue.

Martinez says FPL operates three solar plants statewide but gets a fraction of its energy from solar.

"Our job is to provide the most effective, cost-reliable system", said Martinez. "So if solar would meet that we would be building a lot more solar, but the reality is today natural gas has been significantly more cost effective and reliable than solar at least here in Florida."

While Republican Governor Rick Scott's environmental platform has focused on springs and alternative water supply, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist says he wants to work with the Legislature to grow solar in Florida.

Stephen Smith says utilities will resist Crist's position on solar.

He says utilities are among the most generous contributors to Florida political campaigns, and they do not want to lose control of the energy market.

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Amy Green
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