The University of Florida administration has a shortsighted proposal to build a gas power plant right on campus that would cost $100 million more than a clean energy alternative.Susan Glickman | March 8, 2022
Update: At UFF-UF’s council meeting on March 14, a resolution on the University of Florida’s future energy plans was passed unanimously.
It’s been a firestorm of late at the University of Florida with media outlets from across the nation reporting on an array of controversies from academic freedom to COVID protocols. Recent headlines include: Judge rules for professors in University of Florida academic freedom case from the Washington Post; UF faces criticism after hiring Florida surgeon general critical of COVID-19 measures; and even more recently, Florida surgeon general recommends against COVID vaccination for ‘healthy’ children.
Now in a new arena of university life, questions are surfacing about why would the University of Florida administration propose to build a polluting fossil gas power plant – The UF Central Energy Plant – on Gale Lemerand Drive right on campus – costing $100 million more in capital costs than a clean energy alternative. The key finding is that the net present value cost of a 100% clean energy portfolio is $120M, much less than that of the proposed Central Energy Plant’s cost of $235M. Additionally, building a gas plant locks UF into buying decades of expensive fossil gas. We’re seeing prices for gas go through the roof right now. My SACE colleague George Cavros detailed this before Thanksgiving in his blog posts: Florida Power Bills Spike — Reliance on Fossil Gas to Blame and Florida utilities have passed on a big spike to customers.
Many see this as a short-sighted move, including students (UF moves full steam ahead with gas-fired power plant plans despite student protest) and professors such as Dr. Stephen Mulkey (Mission failure at the University of Florida), as well as community members like Debra Trione who penned a column UF’s planned power plant incompatible with climate commitment.
More than 37,000 people have signed a Change.org petition opposing the plant, and the Faculty Senate of the University of Florida have called for a delay in committing to any Central Energy Plant plan involving natural gas-based power generation until concerns are addressed and further study completed, advocating for a broader plan that includes a transition to alternative energy sources and major increases in energy-use efficiency.
University of Florida graduate, Sarah Toth, who now works at The Rocky Mountain Institute – known as RMI – conducted an analysis, A 100% Clean Energy Portfolio Can Cost-Effectively and Reliably Replace the Proposed UF Central Energy Plant’s Electricity Generation. Sarah wants to see her alma mater do the right thing by its students, the school’s financial future, and protecting our natural environment. She uses a clean energy portfolio model using an updated electricity resource procurement processes that meets the challenge of the coming decade.
What do you, our readers, think? I’d love to hear from those with ties to UF. Let your voice be heard! Why would the University of Florida administration propose to build a polluting fossil gas power plant when they have a cheaper alternative?