Michael Dobson: Don’t lose chance to be a leader in renewables
Florida has a chance to lead, but not today.
In 2008, the Florida Legislature directed the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) 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’s investor-owned utilities to include a certain amount of renewable energy resources by a certain date. The PSC has asked that 20 percent of all electric generation be from renewable energy resources by 2020. This standard allows us to use our abundant sun and robust agricultural industry to create energy.
Simply establishing an RPS will make Florida the leader in the Southeast, which is not on the map when it comes to a reliable renewable energy policy. A vibrant renewable energy industry — and a green jobs revolution — are, without exception, already under way in the 29 states that have adopted a mantatory 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.
The Legislature may very well pass up this opportunity in lieu of a policy that replaces the phrase "renewable energy" with "clean energy." Tuesday, the Senate Communications and Public Utilities Committee passed SB 1154, which does just that. While this bill moves us forward, developing a public benefits fund to be collected from a gas tax and possible federal stimulus dollars, the onerous and glaring portion of the bill is the allowing of nuclear to intrude upon renewable energy. While such a proposal may seem inconsequential, it has serious implications for Florida’s green energy future. Instead of an RPS that increases the development and production of renewable energy technologies, the term "clean" displaces them with nuclear power. To be perfectly clear, a "Clean" Energy Portfolio Standard is one that is geared toward bolstering nuclear energy production in the 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. Gov. Crist 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, respectively. While applauding Gov. Crist’s executive order for renewable energy, Gov. Schwarzenegger said, "It will not be easy" and "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, the talk was about Florida’s promise as an appealing renewable energy market. Even with this, there appears to be a serious disconnect with this promise and the need to effectively develop the renewable energy industry with our policymakers. Perhaps it is because renewable energy advocates lack the long-held clout of other groups, or maybe it is because mandating the RPS policy changes business as usual. Whatever the reason, 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.
Supporting an RPS of natural energy resources as opposed to a so-called "clean" energy strategy clearly benefits our environment. More importantly, it is the right thing to do for our economy to create "shovel ready" green jobs now — not 10 years from now when a nuclear plant will be built. We urge legislative leadership on this issue to put Florida on the renewable energy map.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Dobson is president and CEO of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association, which is based in Tallahassee. Contact him at email@example.com.