State Politics

‘Green’ firms want rights to sell energy

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A trade association of “green” companies that want to sell energy produced from renewable sources, like solar or wind, on the open market was drumming up support Friday for legal changes that would allow them to do so.

The Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy toured the area, making stops throughout Manatee and Sarasota counties as part of a 10-city swing across the state.

Its purpose is to promote job creation and local economic growth through renewable energy development, said Executive Director Mike Antheil.

The tour highlighted the latest in “green technology” at Anna Maria Island Historic Green Village; Beacon Products, 2041 58th Ave. Circle E., Bradenton; Waste Pro, 7921 15th St. E., Sarasota; Sarasota IFAS Extension Office, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota; at a private home in the 2200 block of Shadow Oaks Road, Sarasota; and at State College of Florida’s Lakewood Ranch campus.

The tour ended there with a forum attended by about 50.

Many were small businesspeople who would like to produce and sell energy from renewable sources, but as they noted in frustration -- under current law, there is no way to do so. Only the big utility companies here are allowed to buy and sell energy over the power grid.

“Technology is really coming along rapidly, and we’re not taking advantage of it,” said audience member Wayne Gideons, of Seffner, president of Yaroke USA, which specializes in anaerobic digesters. “We’re in the Edison model, we’re back in the 20th century.”

“Why aren’t our legislators and our people standing up to make this take place, to bring innovation to bring about a better world?” he queried.

The alliance hopes it can persuade the Florida Legislature to change the law like some other states have done, allowing private citizens and companies to sell electricity they generate on the open market, officials said.

“It’s a huge opportunity for every one of us in the room here, and everybody in the state,” said Peter Laughlin, chief executive officer of Sarasota’s EcoTechnologies Inc. and alliance president.

Laughlin said The Sunshine State could jumpstart an ecologically friendly new industry that would create tens of thousands of good jobs and attract private investors that could eventually bring billions of dollars in manufacturing to the state.

He also noted that a thriving local renewable energy marketplace would reduce imports of fossil fuels to the state.

Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner urged the audience to lobby state legislators this spring on behalf of a bill that would call for the “redistributed generation of energy.”

State Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, suggested a simpler name for the arrangement: “Supply and buy.”

Pilon contended it’s time that all the players sit down at the same table, and hammer something out together.

“Absolutely, we are far behind on energy policy -- you have to make your wishes heard,” Pilon told the group.

In past years, similar bills have been proposed, only to die an ignominious death, a number of speakers noted.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.