SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
State Energy Overview
Florida’s tropical climate and lengthy coastline make the state a fine home and an attractive destination, but one that is highly vulnerable to the consequences of climate change—from higher temperatures to sea-level rise and stronger storm surges. These risks and available opportunities are spurring action to address climate change and protect Florida’s treasured places, public health and tourism-based economy.
While former Governor Charlie Crist set a positive tone with several executive orders and led a suite of ambitious legislative goals, several of his energy and climate initiatives stalled in the past few years. However, the merits of the initiatives are clear—utility energy efficiency goals are three times (3x) higher than in past, more solar power has been installed (small and large scale), new buildings must meet more stringent energy standards and government buildings are being made more efficient. All of these measures need continuing support from all levels of government. Help encourage Florida’s leaders to urge city, county, and state officials—particularly present-Governor Rick Scott as well as Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam—to seek proactive solutions to one of Florida’s greatest challenges.
Florida’s utility energy efficiency goals were set last in 2009 to be three times higher than in past years. However, the EE program plans for the 2 biggest utilities, FPL & Progress Energy (now Duke), approved by the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) are not designed to meet the utilities’ goals. Hopefully, the new round of EE goal setting and program approval opened at the FPSC in Aug-2013 for the state’s seven major utilities (the FEECA process) will raise the bar for efficiency gains in 2015 and beyond.
Notably, even though this is the Sunshine State, Florida has no Renewable Electricity or Portfolio Standard (RES/RPS), no state-targeted Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) nor other public policy guidance that clearly assures homeowners, businesses (small & large) and investors that we are committed to a real clean energy future. You can read more about energy efficiency by visiting our Learn About page, here.
Florida is the largest state with the greatest potential renewable energy market in the SACE region. With a total of about 57,000 MW of generation, only 0.37% or about 205 MW are solar. The Florida Public Service Commission regulates the five investor-owned utilities, Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, Tampa Electric, Gulf Power and Florida Public Utilities–and supervises the state’s municipal and cooperative utilities in certain respects. Numerous attempts in recent years have failed to get the legislature and FPSC to require electric utilities to include substantially more renewable generation in their resource mix, or to set a renewable portfolio standard, and to remove regulatory limitations to the expansion of renewable energy. On the plus side, net metering is mandated for all Florida utilities and supports over 43 MW of solar capacity. The Florida 2012 Energy Act reinstated a renewable energy production credit against state corporate income tax and in 2013 the legislature implemented a citizen-initiated constitutionally-mandated property tax exemption for residential solar investments. Further, solar energy systems are not subject to sales tax. Gainesville Regional Utility offered the country’s first solar Feed-In Tariff, which enabled 16 MW of solar expansion on its system through mid-2013. Other municipalities have opted for programs which enable property owners to obtain financing for solar and other energy upgrades. You can read more about solar by visiting our Learn About page, here.
Florida’s best onshore wind resources are located immediately southeast of Lake Okeechobee and along its 1260 miles of coastal areas; meanwhile, the state’s best wind-power resources lie offshore, particularly toward the northeast, in the Georgia Bight. As wind turbine technology advances, wind development companies may become more interested in the state’s resources. Florida is already one of the top wind power system manufacturing states in our region, employing more than 2,000 workers in the wind industry, and new opportunities could create thousands more jobs for Floridians. Learn more about Florida’s wind energy potential here.
Florida, like many Southeastern states, annually sends more than a billion dollars out of state for energy resources to power the state and provide for its residents and vacationers. But there are local opportunities that can help shift that equation. Our analysis shows Florida has a significant amount of commercially available and sustainable biopower capacity based on various biomass resources. In fact, every region of Florida has abundant opportunity for home-grown bioenergy—from abundant forestry residues in the Panhandle to storm debris, urban trimmings, agriculture residues and landfill gas in Central and South Florida, as well as energy crops throughout the state. Utilizing any of these resources needs to be managed carefully and requires thorough assessments of need, resource availability and other demands, water use, biodiversity, carbon, soil quality, air quality and other economic and environmental impacts. The most significant biopower project currently underway is the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC). The project, developed by American Renewables, is the first of its kind in the Southeast. It will be a 100 MW electric generation facility, utilizing fluidized bed combustion with selective catalytic reduction. It will be fueled with forest-derived woody biomass, urban wood waste, and mill residues. GREC is reported to be on track for commercial operation in late 2013. Uniquely, the project developed sustainability criteria for its operations, including providing incentive payments for Forest Sustainability Council (FSC) resources and stewardship planning. One can read more about bioenergy by visiting our Learn About page, here.
There are currently twelve coal plants throughout the state and they are owned and operated by a mix of companies, including Gulf Power (a Southern Company), Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy Florida, JEA (Jacksonville’s municipal utility), and Orlando Utilities Commission (Orlando’s municipal utility). Many of Florida’s coal plants have been upgraded with modern pollution control technologies and are planned to be operational for the near future. Two units at Crystal River are planned for retirement, but that had been contingent on the now-cancelled Levy County Nuclear project. Florida utilities spend a total of about $1.3 billion on coal each year. The state was at number 14 in the list of the top 15 states for coal health impacts in 2010. It’s estimated there are annually 228 hospitalizations, 435 heart attacks and 313 deaths related to pollution from coal plants in Florida. In 2010 about 25% of electric energy in Florida came from coal. Even though dependence on coal has declined from about 37% in 2000, it is still a substantial part of the state’s energy mix. You can read more about coal by visiting our Learn About page, here.
Florida’s twelve active coal fired power plants produce about 8.2 billion pounds of coal ash every year. This toxic waste is disposed of in at least seventy-four dump sites across the state, most are unlined and located near waterways where the waste can easily pollute water used for fishing, drinking and recreation. Despite this threat, Florida lacks many basic safeguards to protect public health and the environment from coal ash. Check out this fact sheet to learn more about coal ash in Florida.