Renewable energy projects in jeopardy
By RUSSELL RAY
Several renewable energy projects in Florida may be scuttled or delayed if lawmakers fail to pass legislation requiring utilities to get 20 percent of their power from renewable or clean energy sources by 2020.
"If there is not a renewable target for the utilities to meet, it is less likely that they will do some of these clean energy projects," said Susan Glickman, a lobbyist for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "They won’t have the ability to recover the cost."
On Tuesday, the Senate Policy Committee on Ways and Means approved a bill that would require electric utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from clean energy by 2020 and sent it to the Senate floor for consideration.
Under the bill, utilities would be allowed to meet the 20 percent goal with new generation from nuclear plants and coal-gasification plants that can capture and store carbon dioxide.
The bill’s author, Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, said the proposal may die in the Senate.
What’s more, the House, with less than two weeks until the session’s end, has not held a meeting on the plan.
But renewable energy advocates remain confident that both chambers will agree to some form of renewable energy standard before the end of next week. The House has been wrangling with budget issues but is expected to take up the matter soon, Glickman said.
"There have been a lot of distractions in the House," she said. "But we are hearing that they’re going to move something."
As the end of the session approaches, utilities are worried about eleventh-hour amendments that could affect customer prices
"There could be risk to ratepayers from last-minute changes to the bill that haven’t been vetted by all stakeholders," said Tampa Electric Co. spokesman Rick Morera.
In March, Tampa Electric announced plans to build a 25-megawatt solar panel power plant near Mulberry in Polk County in anticipation of legislation requiring the company to use more renewable power.
Morera said the utility will proceed with the project even if the state fails to mandate the use of renewable power.
"We think the project is appropriate for us to pursue, given the likelihood of federal legislation," he said.
A 75-megawatt solar project for Babcock Ranch, a development in South Florida, may be put on hold if lawmakers fail to pass a mandate for renewable energy, Glickman said.
"They need a renewable portfolio standard to do that project," she said.