After years of inaction, the Florida House passed a bill Tuesday with the potential to expand renewable energy in the state by roughly 50 percent in the next year. It is unclear whether the bill will become law. The Senate must also approve it, and the legislative session ends Friday.
The bill passed by the House would authorize $386 million worth of renewable energy from sources such as solar power as a one-year boost to the industry, rather than a long-term overhaul of energy policy in the state. Large utility companies would be able to build renewable energy projects equivalent to 2 percent of their overall 2009 revenue, and pass on the costs to customers through rate increases that some legislators opposed Tuesday.
For Florida Power & Light, the 2 percent quota equals roughly $200 million worth of projects.
In comparison, it cost FPL about $150 million to build the 25 megawatt solar plant in Arcadia last year, the largest plant of its kind at the time. Upwards of 50 megawatts of renewable energy could be built over the next year based on recent prices. That is roughly half of what utility companies currently have on the books, mostly in the form of three large solar plants built by FPL totalling 110 megawatts. The plants cost about $700 million combined.
The legislation attacks a long-standing policy that electric companies pursue the cheapest energy sources, which are typically fossil fuels. It directs the state’s Public Service Commission, which must approve new power plants, to consider technologies like solar on their own merit and not in comparison to cheaper alternatives like coal.
Energy reform advocates had mixed feelings about the bill, which includes no provisions for small rooftop solar panels and no long-term goals. Clean energy lobbyist Jerry Karnas said it is “transformative” that the House even passed a bill, which now goes to the Senate, where legislators passed a renewable energy bill last year that was never taken up by the House. The Senate has historically been more inclined towards energy reforms that favor renewables.
Clean energy lobbyist Jerry Karnas said it is “transformative” that the House even passed a bill, which now goes to the Senate, where legislators passed a renewable energy bill last year that was never taken up by the House. The Senate has historically been more inclined towards energy reforms that favor renewables.