A noticeable disparity between public interest in renewable energy development and Florida’s current legislative policy was evident from a recent poll of registered voters conducted for the Florida Renewable Energy Association (FREA). Strong support was shown for policies that have become commonplace in a broad portion of the country yet have largely been ignored by Florida lawmakers.
Of those surveyed, 69% support legislation requiring utilities to produce a greater percentage of electricity from renewable sources. This policy known as a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has been adopted by 37 states. In January of 2009, a draft rule developed by the Florida Public Service Commission was submitted to the state legislature but was never enacted and eventually abandoned.
“We conducted this survey because it’s important that our elected officials understand where the public interest is on this critical issue,” said Robert Stonerock, FREA president. “Clearly, the legislature is not on the same page with Florida voters or the rest of the country.”
Despite difficult economic times, 57% were willing to pay at least 50 cents more per month on their electric bill to help fund renewable energy development. This would generate more than $50 million annually to fund incentives to manufacture and install renewable energy systems. This type of public benefit fund is used in 19 other states but has been rejected by Florida state legislators.
The issue receiving the strongest voter support (80%) was allowing private renewable energy companies to sell electricity directly to consumers and businesses. Two bills, SB1106 and HB 779, designed to achieve this were presented in the 2012 legislative session but died in committees.
Sixty-seven percent rated the Florida legislature as doing either a fair, poor, or very poor job in encouraging the development of renewable energy.
“The people of Florida understand how developing renewables can help to create jobs, control future energy costs, and maintain a clean environment,” said Stonerock. “It’s an issue beyond ideology. It’s a basic responsibility that, up to now, our legislature has ignored.”