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Future of green energy in Florida in limbo

Last summer, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill helped inspire a series of conferences dedicated to weaning the state off fossil fuels. Solar contractors called for policies that would encourage small-scale installations, like rooftop solar panels. Utilities called for incentives to develop large-scale projects, along the lines of a measure that failed last year. Renewable energy advocates called for policies that would do both.

This past winter, bills were introduced in the legislature that would have helped accomplish that.

So far this session, though, they’ve gone nowhere. The renewable energy bill that has advanced is now stalled amid concerns that it would essentially be a gift to Florida Power & Light. A Senate committee killed an amendment intended to promote distributed solar power and to encourage farmers to sell energy from small-scale biomass plants to the grid.

Now hopes for the utility-friendly bill are fading, amid concerns raised by the governor, some lawmakers and outside groups that the unregulated rate increases would impose excessive costs on power customers. The Miami Herald is reporting that an amendment that would give the state’s Public Service Commission more oversight over the rate increases may not be enough to save it, and that its last hope may lie in the Senate, where it is one of dozens of items on next week’s budget panel agenda.

Meanwhile, new data from the Census Bureau shows Florida lagging other states in developing renewable energy.

The state gets less power from renewables than states like Georgia, Idaho, Alaska, Minnesota and Maine, and produces less than one tenth of California’s total. One reason is that Florida has few sources of hyrdo-electric power, by far the biggest chunk of the country’s renewable supply.

Another session may now be poised to go into the books without the legislature passing a bill that would encourage Florida to tap into the sources that are available here, like solar and biomass.

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