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 recent years. 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 solar energy market in the SACE region. With a total of about 57,000 MW of generation capacity, only 0.41% or about 234 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 Florida PSC 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. To date, solar development has been limited to a few large projects developed around 2008-2010, such as concentrating solar power plant that was built as a hybrid with a gas plant. On the distributed side, at the end of 2013 over 60 MW of solar capacity was installed through net metering, one of Florida’s stronger renewable energy policies. In addition to net metering, 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.
An additional 345 MW of utility-scale solar capacity is anticipated to be developed in Florida in the next couple years, based on announcements by Gulf Power and FP&L. While that is substantial, Florida continues to – in general – not live up to its solar potential. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that Florida is ranked 3rd in the country for rooftop solar capacity. Tapping into that potential would be much more viable if Florida were to remove the punitive taxes on commercial solar systems and leased systems. As of March 2015, efforts were being made to remove these taxes, as was a ballot initiative to allow for third-party sales of energy. 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. With these new wind turbines, over 11,000 megawatts (MW) of land-based wind potential currently exist in Florida.Developing just one gigawatt of wind energy capacity (1,000 MW) in Florida (just 9% of Florida’s potential) could power more than 255,500 homes a year! 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.
Florida is home to two operating nuclear plants, each with two reactors, operated by FPL: Turkey Point 3 & 4 near Homestead, about 25 miles from Miami and St. Lucie 1 & 2 on Hutchinson Island near Port St. Lucie. Duke Energy’s (formerly Progress’) Crystal River 3 reactor was closed prematurely in 2013. FPL continues to pursue the licensing of two Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Turkey Point, despite a price tag approaching $20 billion and Duke’s cancellation of the proposed Levy Co. reactors. Learn more about getting involved here.
New nuclear power is expensive and risky. So much so that Wall Street won’t finance new nuclear reactors. So instead, our utilities pass the costs on to the ratepayers to pay on monthly bills. In fact, some of us are already paying more in advance on our monthly power bills to finance some of the costs associated with the proposed FPL reactors (or for the cancelled Levy reactors and now closed Crystal River reactor) due to anti-consumer state legislation passed many years ago, often referred to as Florida’s “nuclear tax” or “nuclear cost recovery.”
Nuclear power is an extremely risky and expensive way to boil water to generate electricity. Though nuclear power plants do not release carbon dioxide like coal plants, they do release radioactive and hazardous materials, including long-lived, highly radioactive waste, that threaten our security, jeopardize our health and pollute our natural resources. The consequences of an accident or terrorist attack at a nuclear power plant could be devastating. Nuclear plants are also incredibly water-intensive, depleting limited and precious water resources. Building new nuclear generation is a waste of the valuable time and money needed to address global warming and a missed opportunity to invest in affordable energy efficiency measures and real renewable solutions, such as solar and wind, that can benefit our state’s economy for generations to come. You can read more about nuclear power by visiting our Learn About Nuclear page, here.