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A controversial push by Florida utilities to raise consumer rates to recoup the cost of renewable energy projects suddenly lost power in the final hours of the 2010 Legislature.
The end came when attempts to attach a measure to a House clean energy bill were withdrawn from the Senate floor.
“One more time, we’re going to delay the renewable energy bill,” said Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, champion of the Senate renewable energy measure.
Meanwhile, a House bill that would allow for unregulated rate increases for some of the state’s largest investor-owned utilities never made it to the Senate floor.
As the clock wound down on the legislative session and bills died, Bennett, R-Bradenton, raced to attach amendments that would allow utilities to raise their rates to pay for renewable energy projects to HB 7179, a House bill that encourages renewable energy improvements for property.
He then withdrew one amendment after another out of concern that other lawmakers would not pass the bill.
Earlier in the week, the House passed HB 7229. The bill, which the Senate never took up, would have allowed the state’s four largest investor-owned utilities, including Florida Power & Light, to recoup the costs of their solar energy projects by raising rates by 2 percent this year, 1 percent next year, and another percent the third year. Power companies did not include alternatives cheaper to produce than solar -- biomass, for example.
Had the bill passed, investor-owned utilities would not have to wait for the PSC to approve rate hikes for such renewable energy projects as new solar power plants.
“Florida has missed a historic opportunity to create thousands of new jobs and grow a clean energy economy for less than a dollar month,” said Florida Power & Light spokeswoman Jackie Anderson in an e-mailed statement.
“This failure is disappointing not only for FPL but also for the thousands of Floridians out of work right now who had held out hope that their leaders would take meaningful action.”
Complaints that the Legislature’s efforts benefited Big Power over independent energy producers dogged the bills from the time they were proposed.
Mike Antheile, executive director for the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, said that HB 7229, while amended to provide some benefits for smaller producers, would still have put smaller producers at a disadvantage.
“There’s nothing for us at all,” he said. “…To be honest, it’s just another year.”