Florida’s renewable energy future slipping away

Stephen Smith | April 21, 2009 | Climate Change, Energy Policy

With less than two weeks remaining in the Legislative session, the hope for Florida to power its future using truly clean, safe and renewable energy resources dwindles. Governor Crist’s commendable target to have 20% of electricity generated by Florida utilities to come from renewable energy resources by 2020, known as the Florida Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) appears to be slipping away.

power towerThis is a test for Governor Crist, will his high visibility statements and star power conferences lead to real policies in the state, or will the Florida Legislature deal him another blow this session? Word is his clean car bill is dead. If the RPS goes down or becomes so corrupted by the utilities as to be powerless – we can expect a series of failures and significant setbacks.

THE BACK STORY

If the Governor’s 2007 executive order is implemented correctly, Florida could jump-start a slumping economy and attract new investment opportunities that could put the over 890,000 unemployed Floridians back to work. A renewable energy plan would also reduce the state’s dependence on out-of-state energy resources creating a more stable energy future and potentially stable energy prices.

Last year, the Florida Public Service Commission and the Florida Governor’s Energy Office commissioned a study assessing Florida’s renewable energy potential. Their findings revealed that WITHOUT using nuclear or “clean” coal technology Florida could produce nearly 25% renewable energy by the year 2020. Based on this data the PSC created an RPS rule to coincide with the Governor’s 20% by 2020 mandate and in January sent it back to the State Legislature for ratification.

THE SENATE’S “CLEAN” PORTFOLIO STANDARD

State Senator Jim King passed a version of an RPS out of his committee in late March. He cleverly changed the name from Renewable Portfolio Standard to Clean Portfolio Standard – something the utilities have lobbied for so that they could sneak in so-called “clean” coal and risky nuclear energy as a qualified energy source. The draft bill calls for 15% percent of Florida’s energy to come from renewable sources like solar power and biomass which is a positive thing, but nuclear and coal have NO PLACE in clean energy law meant to spur a green economy.

FOR THE PEOPLE?

With the Legislative clock ticking – lawmakers in the House have yet to act. They haven’t even proposed a bill. The word is that there is discussion amongst House members to propose a target that would likely call for 10% renewable and 10% nukes. This bill would have no teeth and only set “suggested” goals not a true standard or mandatory target. It would basically leave biomass, solar and everything else out of the equation. They could see this as a way to give Governor Crist his 20% goal without having to do anything. Of course, this would be completely unacceptable.

Adding more nuclear and coal to Florida’s energy mix wouldn’t help diversify Florida’s economy, provide job opportunities for the nearly 10% unemployed, nor reduce global warming pollution that threatens our coasts. It would only provide more undeserved support for the utilities and stifle the hopes of Florida joining the ranks of 30 other states who have targets for renewable energy and are opening the door for a greener economy.

IT’S UP TO US

At this late date in the session, the Governor needs to lead, the House needs to act and/or Representatives need to take action to save Florida’s renewable energy future. Supporting the Senate’s renewable energy plan is a first step. The Senate bill isn’t perfect and we will continue to work to improve it, but if the House doesn’t act now then Florida can hang a “closed for renewable business” sign on the Capitol and at the state line. Florida will miss out on the clean technology wave sweeping the nation allowing good jobs to pass the sunshine state by.

You should let the Governor as well as the Speaker of the House Larry Cretul, House Majority Leader Adam Hasner and other members of the Florida House know what you think of this opportunity that is slipping away. Session ends the first of May.

Get involved – contact Toni Reale at toni@cleanenergy or 843.641.0600 to find out how you can be part of the solution.

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has 30 years of experience effecting change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as its executive…
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