Nuclear plan hurts renewable energy effort
By MICHAEL DOBSON Guest Columnist
Florida has a chance to lead. In 2008, the Legislature directed the Public Service Commission to develop rules for a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) for passage during the 2009 legislative session. An RPS is a policy that requires power generated by Florida investor-owned utilities to include a certain amount of renewable energy resources by a certain date.
The Public Service Commission has asked that 20 percent of all electric generation be from renewable energy resources by 2020. This standard allows us to take our abundant sun and robust agricultural industry to create energy.
Simply establishing an RPS will make Florida the renewable energy leader in the Southeast. The Southeast is not on the map when it comes to a reliable renewable energy policy. A vibrant renewable energy industry — and green jobs revolution — are, without exception, already under way in the 28 states that have adopted an RPS. Meeting energy needs with native renewables instead of conventional fuels from out of state keeps jobs and dollars in state and strengthens Florida’s economy.
Yet, on Tuesday, the Florida Senate’s Communications and Public Utilities Committee passed up such an opportunity by endorsing Senate Bill 1153, which replaces the term renewable energy with "clean" energy to include nuclear power.
While developing a public benefits fund to be collected from the gas tax and possible federal stimulus dollars, the onerous and glaring portion of the bill — allowing nuclear power to intrude upon renewable energy — erodes good intentions. A "Clean" Energy Portfolio is clearly geared toward bolstering nuclear energy production in place of renewable energy production in Florida.
In juxtaposition, Florida’s executive leaders support the development and production of natural renewable energy resources. Gov. Charlie Crist has stood shoulder to shoulder with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California to push policies to establish Florida as the Southeastern leader in renewable energy.
Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson was one of the first to sign up for the 25×25 Campaign — a national campaign to have 25 percent of our energy produced from natural renewable resources by the year 2025. Both gentlemen have walked the talk. The governor and Commissioner Bronson provided leadership by bringing hundreds of renewable energy entrepreneurs to Florida through the Annual Climate Change Summit and Annual Farm to Fuel Summit.
While applauding Governor Crist’s executive order for renewable energy, Governor Schwarzenegger said, "It will not be easy," "the business community and others will fight you," and "you must keep pushing ahead." He was right.
Recently, at the National Retech Convention in Las Vegas, Florida was discussed as a state to watch as having an appealing renewable energy market on the cusp of an RPS. Current action on the RPS is in serious confliot with that promise.
The time is now for Florida lawmakers to step up and create a viable renewable energy industry that uses our natural resources to generate energy, produce Florida jobs and diversify our economy.
We urge legislative leadership on this issue to put Florida on the renewable energy map.
Michael Dobson is president and CEO of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association, Tallahassee.