Library filed under Energy Policy from Florida
FPL Group Inc. became the largest U.S. electricity producer by investing $11 billion in wind and solar power around the country. Those holdings are more critical to the bottom line after a utility rate ruling in Florida dimmed earnings prospects at the company's flagship unit. ...NextEra, which plans to build 1,000 megawatts of wind-generation capacity in 2010, helped push FPL past Southern Co. as the biggest U.S. power producer late last year.
County Commissioner Doug Coward thinks rooftop solar panels are a better idea than the six 400-foot wind turbines Florida Power & Light Co. plans for South Hutchinson Island. "Why don't we take that $5 million (in subsidies for the turbines) away from a project that is ill-fated and actually shift it into trying to do widespread rooftop solar?" Coward asked during a Tuesday night commission meeting. "Maybe do it on a demonstration in St. Lucie."
A proposal to require privately owned Florida utilities to generate more power from renewable and nuclear sources sailed through a Senate committee Tuesday even as it came under fire from all sides. The changes would be funded by a 2 percent increase in electricity rates and a 1-cent-a-gallon increase in the gas tax. ...The idea faces an uncertain future in the House.
As Congress gets ready to parcel out billions of dollars to create what President Obama likes to call "green collar jobs," energy analysts warn of the dangers of a rush into territory already littered with failed investments. "Yes, there's gold in green," said Susan Glickman, southern regional director for the Climate Group, which builds bridges between business and government to promote a cleaner planet. "But not all green is gold."
For some time, Florida Power & Light has been trying to join the green energy revolution. Prodded first by the governor's direction to diversify its fuel sources, and later by the governor's incentive programs for green energy, FPL has tried a variety of projects with mixed results at best. ...In the face of its own assertions that wind was not practical in Florida, and the independent studies showing there was enough wind for the latest model turbines only on the oceanfront, FPL persisted in proposing wind turbines at its St Lucie nuclear site.
Florida electric companies would have to rely on an increasingly heavy mix of wind, solar and biomass to generate their power over the next 11 years, under a proposed rule state regulators voted to send to the Legislature late Thursday. Calling their decision ''historic,'' the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously voted to send the Legislature the proposal that calls for 20 percent of their fuel mix to come from renewable energy sources by 2020.
In a much anticipated report that could affect every Floridian's pocketbook, a consultant hired by the state says solar power could be a competitive source of electricity by 2020 in many scenarios, but it will cost considerably more than new nuclear power and natural gas, the main sources of power for present customers of Florida Power & Light. Biomass -- things like plant waste, wood chips and garbage -- will be a financially viable source in all scenarios, but wind isn't likely to be much of a factor in Florida.
The first draft of a report commissioned by state regulators says one kind of solar power and off-shore wind have great potential as sources of renewable energy in Florida, but land-based wind and another kind of solar have almost no future in the state. ...Land-based wind energy -- now the largest renewable energy source by far in the United States -- does not seem commercially viable in Florida, the report said.
For years, the utility has said solar is not an economical option because there is not enough sunshine or land. Likewise, there is not enough wind to spin a turbine. That thinking is about to change, and business for FPL - and all of the state's energy providers - will never be the same. Gov. Charlie Crist's pledge to lower greenhouse-gases is forcing Florida's utilities to go green. ...If regulators allow nuclear power to be included in the definition of renewable energy, FPL could count the power produced by its two nuke plants in Florida. That would put FPL's renewable energy production around 19.4 percent - within a fraction of the governor's target.
Florida Power & Light officials told state regulators today that nuclear power should join solar and wind as a renewable energy source in Florida. "I think the goal, the intent is to have the most material impact on greenhouse gases," said Eric E. Silagy, FPL's chief development officer in explaining why Florida's Public Service Commission should reconsider the definition. Since nuclear power plants do not burn fuel, there are virtually no air emissions, such as greenhouse gases that may contribute to global warming, according to FPL's Web site.
A crucial argument about the best way to combat global warming comes down to two alternatives that may seem deceptively simple: • Force utilities to make a certain percentage of electricity from renewable resources, such as solar and wind. • Make utilities pay a stiff fine for the greenhouse gases they produce from coal and natural gas, then let the utilities figure out the most economical way of reducing their emissions. ...The debate boils down to three key points: Are renewable standards the best way to deal with greenhouse gases? How expensive are renewables, particularly in the Southeast? And what's the best renewable for Florida?
Florida would develop a plan to cap emissions of the greenhouse gases thought to cause climate change, and would allow businesses to buy and sell credits in order to meet those limits, under a measure approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives that supporters called a historic shift in state energy policy. But the far-reaching energy legislation also would make it easier for utilities to run transmission lines across state lands, and would permit power companies to charge consumers in advance for the costs of building or relocating some infrastructure.
As Floridians struggle to pay the soaring cost of gasoline and home insurance, energy legislation that could cause a significant increase in Florida's electricity rates is breezing through the Legislature with little scrutiny. House and Senate energy bills backed by Gov. Charlie Crist are packed with incentives - grants, rebates and tax credits - to promote the use and development of renewable energy. Both bills, however, call for state regulators to require electric utilities to produce a certain percentage of their power from renewable energy sources. The standard touted by Crist and others is 20 percent over a number of years yet to be determined, an ambitious threshold that would lead to higher electric bills because renewable power is generally more costly than power made from coal and natural gas. ...Tampa Electric, which provides electricity to nearly 670,000 customers and uses renewable energy sources to produce 2.5 percent of its power, said although it supports the increased use of renewable power, a mandate to produce a certain percentage would lead to increases in monthly electric bills. "The most affordable fuels will be taken off the table for future use and replaced with more expensive technologies," said company spokeswoman Laura Duda. "There will be rate pressure."
St. Pete Audubon has urged members to oppose Senate Bill 1506, because portions of that proposed legislation make it easier for power companies to run lines through public property. "The concerns were that it made it too easy for the utility companies to take land that belongs to all the people of Florida," says Kandz. ... "This is wild Florida, so we need to protect conservation lands at all costs," said Rinker. So while the power puzzle continues to take shape in Tallahassee, environmental activists say they'll continue to keep their guard powered up.
Opponents of Florida Power & Light Co.'s plan to put wind turbines on South Hutchinson Island still hope to have a large crowd at tonight's St. Lucie County Commission meeting even though a majority of commissioners have said they oppose building the turbines on public land. "We're trying to get our people out, but many have the impression we've already prevailed," said Julie Zahniser of the Save St. Lucie Alliance. ...Tonight's vote deals only with FPL's request for three wind turbines on the public conservation lands. FPL also wants to build six wind turbines on its own property at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant.
Public lands are off the table. That was Florida Power & Light Co.'s message Tuesday morning as the company announced it would no longer pursue three wind turbines on state-owned land at Blind Creek Park. Instead, it will move ahead only with the six turbines proposed for land it owns around the St. Lucie Nuclear Plant on Hutchinson Island. The issue was set to go before the County Commission tonight, as commissioners were to consider writing a letter to the state denying an easement for the Blind Creek property. Because the county manages the land, its approval would have been necessary.
As Florida moves to implement those measures and consider others, businesses are concerned. ''We are injecting into the argument what the cost will be and the competitive effect of putting our state at an economic disadvantage to all other states that don't have strict emissions standards,'' said Jose Gonzalez, vice president of government affairs for Associated Industries of Florida, a lobbying group for businesses. ``It's certainly laudable. The governor is trying to do the right thing. But the way we get there is the question.''
For Barney Bishop, president of the Tallahassee-based Associated Industries of Florida, it's too much, too soon. "We're willing to go in the same direction the governor wants to go, but he wants to go 100 miles per hour, and we want to go 50 miles per hour," Bishop said. "They talk about, 'we can do this, we can do that,' but they just assume people are going to be willing to pay the costs." Bishop wants a cost-benefit analysis for the governor's plan, and argued that Florida won't benefit from any push to curb greenhouse gas emissions if the states around it don't do something similar.
Progress Energy's customer surveys, presented at a conference for Wall Street analysts that the company hosted in Florida, show how far public opinion has swung in this state on combating climate change. Progress Energy, which has 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida, said public opinion virtually eliminated coal plants as an option. ..."It's important to know where customers stand, because policymakers are going to be responding to public opinion," John McArthur, the company's general counsel and senior vice president, told the analysts. ...Now Progress officials say they have a new challenge: The public may be overly optimistic about the potential for renewable energy. Though environmental advocates have said alternative energy is cheaper than building power plants, Progress executives said renewables are costly and not as dependable as power plants. "The public has unrealistic expectations about renewables," McArthur said. "They think it's twice as important as reliability."
The turbines would take up only 3 or 4 acres of dunes in the 409-acre park, FPL officials say, but to opponents like Coward that's too much. "It doesn't make any sense to me to promote green energy at the expense of our green spaces," said Coward. "I don't know that you could pick a worse site." Other commissioners are less certain about what to do, and want more information. "None of us are wind experts," said Commissioner Charles Grande, "although some of us are known for producing hot air."