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SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy



State Energy Overview

florida-clean-energy-01Florida’s tropical climate and lengthy coastline make the state a fine home and a popular travel destination, but one that is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change— from higher temperatures to sea-level rise and stronger storm surges. These risks and available opportunities demand that the state move towards a clean energy economy. While there has been a strong move to solar power in the last year, there remains vast potential in Florida to accelerate the state’s path to a cleaner, lower cost, lower risk and more economically vibrant energy future.

Solar: Florida is the largest state in the SE Region with the greatest potential for solar energy development. 2017 was an important year for solar development. As solar costs continue to plummet, a number of utility scale additions came into service and there were multiple announcements of the construction of significant new utility-scale solar in the next several years.

Gulf Power, for instance, brought 120 MW of solar power online in 2017 through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Coronal, on three military bases in its territory in 2017. Duke Energy Florida announced plans, as part of a 2017 rate settlement agreement, to build up to 700 MW of solar over the next 4 years – its first 74.9 MW project to be located in Hamilton County. Likewise, pursuant to a rate settlement, Tampa Electric announced plans to build up to 600 MW of solar in the same time frame – and is pushing for regulatory approval from the Public Service Commission for the first tranche of 145 MW of solar projects. Florida Power and Light, the largest power company in the state, continued its solar expansion of by brining online another 225 MW in late December of 2016 and will complete another 596 MW (eight 74.5 MW systems) by the end of this year, or early next year.

Municipal utility solar installations are also playing an important role, in fact several are leading their investor-owned utility brethren on solar development relative to the number of customers in their territory (solar watts per customer). JEA, the state’s largest municipal utility, announced the addition of 250 MW of solar PPAs by 2020 as part of its revised solar policy – bringing it to about 300 MW by 2021 The City of Tallahassee is adding another 40 MW by 2020 to its already exiting 20 MW for a total of 60 MW. Look for the announcement of significant solar additions by municipal utilities in 2018.

The recently implemented Amendment 4 (passed by voters in August 2016) – that provides significant tangible personal property tax abatement is bringing even more cost effective solar to Florida families. For instance, It will decrease costs to operate several FPL solar facilities by about $67 million – those savings will be passed on to customers. OUC customer will also see additional savings from solar power – to the tune of more than $220,000 during the first year of operation of its newest solar plant.

With the passage of Amendment 4 in August 2016, and the defeat of deceptive Amendment 1 in November 2016, solar rooftop development has taken off in the Sunshine State. In fact, solar permits for new rooftop systems in 2017 surged 110% over the previous year.

Moreover, solar coops are playing an increasingly important role in the residential rooftop market by providing information to homeowners interested in capturing the economic savings produced from rooftop solar and / or those wanting to pave the way to a cleaner future for the next generation. More than 600 homeowners have gone solar with the help of a local solar co-op. No less than 17 coops have been in created in counties throughout the Sunshine State.

Energy Efficiency: Energy efficiency is the quickest cheapest and cleanest way to meet electricity demand. Florida’s utility conservation goals (which include energy efficiency) are set every five years by the state’s Public Service Commission and were last set in 2014. Florida’s largest utilities proposed goals in 2014 that, if approved, would dramatically roll back energy efficiency efforts in Florida by 87-99%. Unfortunately, the Commission generally approved the request and thereby gutted energy efficiency efforts in the state of Florida for the next five years. Those most impacted by the absence of meaningful efficiency programs are lower income and fixed income families that may not have access to information or financial resources to lower their energy use and save money on bills. Florida ranks 43rd out of 50 states for the capturing energy efficiency savings relative to its electricity sales. Florida regulators will have an opportunity soon to improve the state’s performance and help customers save money through the cleanest energy resource – energy efficiency. The Commission will set new conservation goals for the state’s biggest power companies again in 2019


Nuclear: 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 of over $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.” Recently, the builder of the AP-1000, Westinghouse, filed for bankruptcy and has publicly announced it is out of the nuclear reactor construction business. Two AP-1000 reactors in South Carolina were abandoned after projected costs to complete them soared to over $25 billion.

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. 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.