You might imagine that you live in the Sunshine State, but there are sunshine deniers among us.
It's easy to find them. Just mention that Florida is woefully lagging when it comes to using solar energy.
"I think the whole 'Sunshine State' is just a license plate slogan," Public Service Commission Chairman Art Graham said during a recent commission hearing. "When you look at it, we are Number 5 overall when it comes to rainfall of all the other states."
Graham's not alone as a sunshine denier. For years, state lawmakers have been scuttling renewable energy plans by claiming that "intermittent cloud cover" makes sunshine too unreliable in Florida.
"Yes, we have clouds, but Florida has the most radiant energy east of the Mississippi," said Scott McIntyre, the owner of Solar Energy Management, a Tampa-based solar panel installer. "The utilities companies are trying to keep a lid on a boiling pot, and so far, their campaign is working."
The Florida Public Service Commission dealt another blow to the state's feeble solar power industry in late November by deciding to make significant cuts to the state's renewable energy goals and ending a rebate program for home installation of solar panels.
"The market has not responded," said Commissioner Eduardo Balbis. "People have not put in solar on their own. They're only putting it in if they get substantial subsidization."
Out of an estimated 9 million customer accounts in the state, only about 6,000 are powered by solar, said George Cavros, the Florida energy policy attorney with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
"It's a lack of policy that's holding Florida back," Cavros said.
The state's energy policy has essentially done the bidding of Florida's largest utilities -- FPL, Duke Energy, TECO energy and Gulf Power -- which employ one lobbyist for every two state legislators and spend millions of dollars in political tribute on compliant lawmakers.
Here's how this relationship works.
Consider, New Jersey. It's not the sunniest state, but New Jersey residents use five times the amount of solar power as Florida does with only about half the population. Why? Because New Jersey has a solar panel rebate program and is one of 36 states that allow third-party financing of solar energy.
One of the big barriers to solar energy is the initial cost of solar panels. But in New Jersey and 35 other states, companies are allowed to install panels on homes and businesses that enter into power purchase agreements or solar leases with the company.
In Florida, that's illegal. Utilities companies have a monopoly on selling energy, and they want to keep generating electricity with natural gas, which is cheaper than solar energy right now.
Federal regulations have dramatically increased the efficiency of air conditioners and other big appliances. And other conservation efforts have created a forecast of reduced energy consumption in the state.
This is good news for the environment, and it ought to be good news for consumers too.
But it means that power companies will look to increase rates on its customers to maintain their profitable bottom lines, especially if more of those consumers are given an opportunity to become energy sellers instead of energy buyers.
"The legal ability to sell energy to third parties would make the solar market explode in Florida," McIntyre said. "But we're beholden to this draconian renewable energy policy."
Yes, it's much easier to pay lip service to renewable energy, while falling short of the state's renewable energy goals, building more fossil fuel plants, and becoming a sunshine denier.
So until we have lawmakers that stop doing the bidding of the deepest pockets in the room, be advised that the "Sunshine State" name is nothing but a lie.
We live in a rainy, dreary place, where intermittent clouds cast a constant shadow over the land.
Nothing like the bright, sunny paradise that is New Jersey.
Frank Cerabino ,writes for The Palm Beach Post. E-mail: email@example.com.