Florida’s renewable energy future – a no-brainer!

This past Tuesday, I spent my day walking the halls of the Florida State Capitol. During one of my appointments with a Representative, I was heard to exclaim, “developing a renewable energy program is a no-brainer.” His response was, “the one thing I’ve learned here is there is no such thing as a no-brainer, just no brains.” As I look back upon this past week. I know what he means.

This legislative session, both the Florida House and Senate are working on their own version of a program called the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). This is a program that will require the utility companies to get 20% of their energy from renewable energy sources, like solar, wind, and biomass by the year 2020. These were conservative goals set up by Governor Crist to help reduce the amount of CO2 that we release into the air at an ungodly rate each day. It will also help us become energy independent and fight Global Warming.

Also in consideration is the Feed-in Tariff program (FIT), or as some people like to call it – the Feed-in Dividend program (FID). It is a program that is currently in place in Gainesville, Florida. It requires utility companies to purchase renewable energy from customers who have set up solar panels on their homes, businesses, warehouses, and farms at a rate higher than what the utility company charges it’s customers. The customers of the utility company help off set the cost of the program by paying a nominal fee each month (right now Gainesville charges the monthly rate of 72 cents). This program not only supports the RPS, but also promotes more people to get involved in renewable energy by off-setting the cost of the equipment. The program is controlled by a contract that is in place for an average of 20 years. It is supported by lending institutions and renewable energy manufacturers that are eager to do business in Florida.

The reason that the FIT program is being used in Gainesville, and not the rest of the state, is because Gainesville has a municipal utility company that is run by the city. The people of Gainesville voted to have the FIT program put in place after they say how successful it was in other parts of the world, like Germany and Spain. Both Germany and Spain have not only significantly reduced their amount of CO2 (which helps combat Global Warming), but they have also promoted the growth of a renewable energy industry that has done wonders for their economy and their energy independence.

The reason that the FIT program needs legislation is because a very large part of Florida get it’s energy from utility companies that are investor-owned utilities, such as Florida Power and Light (FPL) and Progress Energy. These utility companies are set up to make money for their investors and their customers have no say in how they do that. Legislation is the only way the people can have a say in how they get their energy.

If you are concerned that the utility companies will suffer and then pass on the cost to their customers, you can check out a recent post in the Sun Sentinel that shows how profitable working for a utility can be.

And that brings me back to the beginning. If it’s good for the state and the people who live here, then who is fighting against these programs. Well, it shouldn’t take you long to figure out it’s the utility companies themselves. A great deal of money is being spent on lobbyists who represent the utilities in their fight to keep these mandates from happening. Not because they are against renewable energy, FPL is building the largest solar field in the US right in the center of our state, but because they want to remain in control of our energy. What most people don’t realize is that very much like the stock market, the buying and selling of energy is where the profit is, not in the production. Keeping the legislature out of the mix will be only in the best interest of the investors.

So when does the best interest of the people become more important than the best interest of the utility companies? Right now. We have only three weeks left in this current session. The Senate has already modified the RPS to include nuclear and clean coal. The House hasn’t introduced anything as of yet. There is a strong possibility that nothing will happen and then we will have to wait another year and start all over again. In the end, the utility companies will win, even by default. And the longer it takes Floridians to join the 28 other states that have an RPS in place, the greater the loss will be for the people of this state.

So now it’s time to do your part. Let you voices be heard. Don’t bother with emails, they only get lost in a tally. Pick up the phone or write a letter; let your representatives know what is important to you. Don’t let this session pass without a vote on RPS and FIT. Demand that Floridians should have a say in where they get their energy. Let your voices be heard now.

Florida House
Florida Senate