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Florida's Sweet Energy Mandate

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View David Guest's blog posts
22 January 2009, 6:00 AM

Jan. 8 was a sweet day in Florida, and I’m not talking about the weather.

On that day, the state's Public Service Commission voted for a new energy mandate: the state will get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources—wind, solar, hydropower, or biomass—by 2020.

"We want to be a leader in this country in solar and wind," Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter said. "We want to establish a dynamic and vibrant marketplace."

This is some fresh air, indeed. For years, Florida utility regulators have done the bidding of the state's politically powerful utility companies. The PSC voted for the new renewable energy goal even though the utilities spent months belly aching about how it could not be done (That's a song that we've grown oh-so-very weary of hearing.). And to add icing for our cake, the PSC shot down an attempt by power companies to get nuclear power plants defined as "renewable" energy.

Could it be a new day in fossil-fuel Florida? Just a year and a half ago, we were fighting one of the country’s largest proposed coal plants, right near Everglades National Park. The PSC voted down that plant in June 2007.

Big-time credit for the Sunshine State’s political changes goes to Gov. Charlie Crist, who has made energy policy and climate change action true priorities for his administration. He laid it out in his inaugural address when he said: "I am persuaded that global climate change is one of the most important issues we face this century, and we must make every effort to do what is right."

In 2007, Crist signed an executive order requiring the state to lower greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2025. Then he appointed an Action Team on Energy and Climate Change.

I served on the team, and we released a blueprint that would make Florida one of America's most aggressive states in tackling climate change.

Our recommended reforms  would cut Florida's greenhouse gases 34 percent by 2025 and would cut energy costs by $28 billion. We estimated that Florida could save an estimated 53.5 billion gallons of petroleum, 200.2 million short tons of coal, and 6.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The PSC vote requiring utilities to develop renewable energy sources is a great, historical step. I am looking forward to the day when Florida makes its own renewable energy instead of importing fossil fuels. And, for the first time in a long time, I believe we may have the political leadership to make it happen.

The PSC's "20 by 20" recommendation now goes to the Florida Legislature, and we'll be keeping the pressure up until it passes.

In my humble opinion, Michael, you have an opportunity to lead in your community/neighborhood. Placing solar panels on your roof can not only supply electricity for your own family but you can sell what is not used to the power company, benefiting the neighbors.(Plus there are tax credits now.) You can risk whatever negatives you perceive your actions to be and think of "Yes, We Did," realizing that the ordinance or rule is outdated and, therefore, not applicable to saving water, which Florida desperately needs. May I suggest that you speak to your homeowner's association first and ask them to review their outdated rules. You can do it. In fact, I dare you to do it. Let Earth Justice know what happens.

Steven Gaber refers to "strict covenants" prohibiting roof top devices for generating heat and power.
Once upon a time "covenants" mean no Jews or "niggers" allowed. They then morphed into bogus "homeowners associations" whose permission was required to plant a zinnia and now to install a solar panel.
Now just why does the legislation cut off at 2001?
Provided proper safety procedures are followed, why should it not extend back indefinitely?
These "Associations" were really the builders and developers who ran the place and set the rules but who are now being slammed by the financial situation in lending and real estate.
Of course the owners and major investors have often bailed out taking a few dollars with them to invest next time they can get the financing to destroy a marsh or tear up a corn field to build more quarter acre "estates" with cute names. Only the sacked construction workers take the real hit.

Thanks to David Guest and the others in the action team for accomplishing an important milestone for Florida. I hope our state will help more homeowners to install energy saving devices in their homes and assist in retrofitting the commercial buildings throughout the state.

This is wondeful, but Florida still has a long way to go in the area of alternative energy. There is no reason why every house and commercial buillding in "The Sunshine State" should not have solar power,even passive solar hot water at a minimum. This would reduce the state's dependence on fossil fuels considerably. Unfortunately, while there is considerable talk about promoting alternative energy, little progress is actually being made.
As an example, I would love to install photovoltaic panels and hot water heaters on my roof. But I live in a deed-restricted community with strict covenants against them. Although the state passed legislation that limits homerowners' associations from preventing the installation of panels on roofs, it only applies to communiities and associations that were chartered after (I beleive)2001 or thereabouts. So as much as I desire to do my part in this fight, I am prohibited from participating. What can be done about this?

Hurray for the Floridians. Let's remember that the next time they need assistance with a hurricane or natural disaster - we can't truck needed supplies into their state due to reduced emissions and we all know trucks spew a lot as do the people who drive cars and other assistance for the people of Florida. You are like California - you want power and electricity, but don't want that in your backyard - powerlines go across the Hopi and Navajo reservations but they can't use it as it is reserved for California. I am all for saving the planet and land and animals and so on, but we have to remember other things too, as well as people. You would not have as much pollution if you cut your immigration and other populations down?

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