Business

Renewable Energy Bill Takes Heat

Critics call Senate measure a sweetheart deal for big utilities
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: March 29, 2011 3:55 AM
Brushing aside pointed criticism of a renewable energy bill, the Senate Committee on Communications, Energy and Public Utilities gave preliminary approval to the measure on Monday.

Proponents say Senate Proposed Bill 7082 would increase Florida's use of alternative energy at a modest cost to consumers -- estimated by committee staffers to run an additional $1.40 to $2.60 per household per month.

But the bill took heat from a long line of critics who branded it an anti-competitive measure that favors the state's large investor-owned utilities, with several pointed references to Florida Power & Light Co.

Scott McIntyre, CEO at St. Petersburg-based Solar Energy Management, disputed the staff assurances of fair play and predicted that the measure "will put us out of business."

Other critics said the Senate plan amounts to a legislative rate increase of $450 million a year while generating few jobs.

"While we applaud efforts to promote renewable energy initiatives, supporting utility-scale solar at the expense of customer-owned systems will reduce the potential for job growth and delay our state's economic recovery," said Bill Gallagher, president of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association.

A recent poll commissioned by Florida TaxWatch found that 80 percent of Floridians support renewable energy and 70 percent support a $1 a month surcharge on electricity bills that would pay for incentives for renewable energies.

"Those incentives could include popular rebate programs that would promote solar rooftop installations," Gallagher said. "These efforts would help create long-term job opportunities -- 40,000 jobs for installers, plumbers, electricians and engineers; $12.2 billion in wages and $300 million in taxes.

But Gallagher and other critics of the Senate bill said large-scale, investor-owned utility projects such as solar farms and central solar plants provide only temporary jobs during the construction phase.

"SPB 7082 would allow utilities to recoup the costs of these projects directly from ratepayers," Gallagher said. "The message being sent with this bill seems inconsistent with Governor Rick Scott's primary goal, which is job creation."

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Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

Comments (2)

LDouglas
5:36AM MAR 29TH 2011
"While we applaud efforts to promote renewable energy initiatives, supporting utility-scale solar at the expense of customer-owned systems will reduce the potential for job growth and delay our state's economic recovery," said Bill Gallagher, president of the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association."

I agree. Besides, if we're all going to have to chip in to develop more sources of energy it should be for the benefit of all- and not for a corporation. After all, if it's good for the US economy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil to stop sending our money out of the country, it has to be good for Florida's economy to reduce our dependence on a corporation and stop sending our energy dollars out of the state.

As for competitiveness, and taxpayer subsidies, keep in mind that solar and wind etc. will get cheaper over time. You can't say that about the other sources of energy that rely on dwindling resources such as nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas. (And done right, renewable sources of energy won't come with hidden costs like heart and lung diseases, dying forests, acidification of the oceans all from air pollution, water pollution, or destroying our God given landscapes.)
R Messenger
11:29AM MAR 29TH 2011
What is not mentioned in the discussion is the fact that since solar on rooftops involves investment of the money of the system owner, the impact on ratepayers can be a factor of five less than the impact on ratepayers of large-scale utility systems. It can be shown that for less than $0.50 for each $100 in utility bills, i.e., less than a 0.5% increase, it is possible to increase the contribution of solar electric to Florida's electricity generation mix to 7.5% by the year 2020 if small and medium scale solar electric systems are installed by local installers on rooftops of homes and businesses and on available space on farmlands. So why not encourage competition and let the most cost-effective solution to the ratepayers for installing solar be the one selected? Since when should a utility have a monopoly on the sun? I realize the IOUs job is to make profits for their investors, but shouldn't they also have an obligation to their ratepayers as a result of their monopoly status?

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