In a recent blog Florida Could Learn About Clean Energy Solutions from Puerto Rico, I shared my journey in searching for Florida’s clean energy policy. As a young political scientist, I began this journey determined to discover clean energy solutions in Florida that could secure the energy future for both Florida and my birthplace of Puerto Rico.
The research began with Puerto Rico.
I was surprised how easily I was able to pull up facts about the clean energy policies Puerto Rico had already passed as of 2010, and was now in the process of implementing. There was a clear outline for how Puerto Rico would steadily increase its development and production of clean renewable sources of energy while slashing its use of non-replenishable fossil fuels to achieve diversification and security in its energy mix. In 2010, Puerto Rico established, through Legislative Act No. 83, both Green Energy Fund, and a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – both intended to accelerate the adoption of renewable technologies. The RPS sets a hard target of 12% renewable energy production by 2015 and 15% by 2020, with a requirement for retail energy providers to establish a plan to reach 20% renewable energy production by 2035.
In the Act’s Statement of Motives, there is a clear mandate presented by legislators to act on behalf of the island and people of Puerto Rico to do their part in combating human effects on climate change. Such steps are deemed not only common sense, economically beneficial and morally responsible, but as vital steps of necessity to secure the physical future of Puerto Rico. Legislators consistently cite the need to act to the immediate threat and cost of inaction. The Act expressed that there was “no doubt” that Puerto Rico’s current energy policy was contributing to climate change, thus Puerto Rican leadership viewed it as a moral imperative to act in the face of rising sea levels that threaten the island’s homes, businesses and infrastructure. Next step….research Florida’s clean energy policies for ideas to strengthen and enhance future Puerto Rican policy on creating a robust clean energy market.
Little did I know that rather than being easily directed to detailed lists of policies implemented to promote clean energy I would be taking my first steps in the search for the holy grail! I found no state-wide Green Energy Fund, no RPS, no real statewide policy to promote energy diversification, no plans to reduce consumption of fossil fuels or to increase production of renewable and alternative energy sources (also/thankfully no giant booby trapped boulders or collapsing floors into snake infested spike pits). I scratched my head, doubled back, tripled back; certainly I must be looking in the wrong place. I kept searching and with the exception of some local initiatives, there was no comprehensive state energy policy.
I looked harder, deeper, longer… Nothing.
I found some local municipalities which had begun taking their own initiatives with offering financing and rebates, yet still no statewide mandate. Could it be that THE SUNSHINE STATE had no clear mandate to capture and invest in solar energy?! That a state surrounded by water had no policy to encourage ocean current, or coastal wind resources. It couldn’t be, could it? A few coladas of Cuban Coffee and a couple of days later I found my answer to these and other questions.
Florida has not adopted a state clean energy policy. Yes it was possible that the Sunshine State had no official mandate to capture the sun’s energy. Yes, we were ignoring the fact that if we do nothing to tackle climate-causing greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution, Florida will be one of the first of states to suffer the consequences of sea-level rise. Yes, it was possible we weren’t utilizing our vast expansive coastline for energy or our millions of rooftops to capture the energy of the sun.
I have thought hard to answer the two questions which immediately and naturally followed by my research. Why and How? How was it possible that with so much at stake and in common with the small island of Puerto Rico that we, as Floridians, were being left stagnant in Puerto Rico’s wake – as it forges ahead. Why is Florida a laggard, instead of a leader, on capturing the environmental and economic benefit of clean energy future?
Surprisingly, Florida was once moving on a certain clean energy path. In 2007, then-Governor Crist had signed executive orders that would have required that the state’s biggest power companies to produce or procure 20% of their generation from renewable resources by 2020. Also, the orders started the process of creating a Florida-specific policy of reducing climate pollution from Florida’s electricity sector.
As it turns out, those provisions in statute have since been removed by legislative bills that were signed by current Governor Scott. Given Florida’s renewable energy and energy efficiency potential, eliminating statutes that can secure the energy and economic future for my fellow Floridians was, well quite frankly, stunning.
In searching for the Holy Grail of clean energy policy, I surprisingly found it in Puerto Rico, not Florida. Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature could learn a lot from Puerto Rico about securing its economic and environmental future though clean energy policy. With so much on the line, inaction is no longer an option