On renewable energy, inaction isn’t an option

This appeared in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Sunday Feb. 28th, 2010  

Kelly Kirschner is vice mayor of the city of Sarasota.

In 2008 under the leadership of Gov. Charlie Crist, then- House Speaker Marco Rubio and then-Senate President Ken Pruitt, Florida passed an energy bill that for the first time created a mechanism to encourage utilities to dip their foot into legitimate renewable energy production. Because of this legislation, Florida catapulted into a leading position nationally on solar energy production. Florida now has, in DeSoto County, the country’s largest solar photovoltaic installation. When two more solar plants are completed in Martin County and Cape Canaveral, Florida will be the second-largest solar producing state in the nation. Most of us who have lived here for an appreciable length of time rightly assume this should be a given. After all, we are the Sunshine State.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The 2008 bill only allowed for a fixed, one-time investment by utility companies. The State Solar Energy System Incentives Program, which has paid out over $25 million since 2006 in direct rebates to consumers who installed solar energy systems at their homes or commercial buildings, is set to expire this year, with no identified funding source to continue its existence. Last spring’s legislative session came close to adopting a Renewable Portfolio Standard, which would have kept the renewable momentum going, requiring utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by the year 2020. Unfortunately, close does not count, nor does it help our battered economy or our thousands of unemployed.

Illusion or reality?

As a result, the much talked about “green economy,” based on aggressive research, development and deployment of renewable energy, is an illusion unless there is a concerted effort made by our Legislature and governor this spring to put in place market-based mechanisms that pull this into reality. Failure to act means that areas in the world with much less potential for solar energy capture — including Germany, Canada and China — will secure the primary bulwarks of this new economy and we will eventually be consumers of their new products. China has leapfrogged the United States in the last two years to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels.

Ceding the enormous renewable energy market to China and elsewhere would be a catastrophic economic mistake that continues our multi-decade slide toward being nothing more than a consumption-driven economy.

To continue reading, click on link to go the Sarasota Herald Tribune

2 comments on “On renewable energy, inaction isn’t an option

  1. Susan Nilon

    Anything is possible if the Public Service Commission allows it here in Florida. In South Florida, we receive our energy from FPL – where we are limited to what the franchise agreement allows. But that doesn't mean that an energy cooperative would not be a good idea. When you say "PPP", do you mean "PPA?" – Power Purchase Agreement?

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