Florida groups want solar, renewable standard raised in special session

The Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association is asking Gov. Charlie Crist to support a constitutional amendment to establish a 20-percent renewable energy requirement for Florida utilities.

Crist has said he will call a special session soon to consider a constitutional amendment to ban oil drilling and other measures to promote renewable energy in response to the ongoing gulf oil spill. The Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association represents developers and operators of renewable energy facilities and independent power marketers.

The group wants Crist to ask the Legislature to put on the fall election ballot a constitutional amendment to require utilities to produce at least 20-percent of their electricity by 2020, said Michael Dobson, the association’s president. The group also wants a ballot measure to establish a public benefits fund to pay for renewable energy projects.

Crist in 2007 proposed such a 20-percent renewable energy requirement called a “renewable portfolio standard.” In 2009, the Senate approved a bill to establish a 15-percent renewable energy requirement along with an additional 5 percent nuclear as part of a “clean energy” standard. But the House refused to take up the bill.

This year, SB 596 by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, would have established the same clean energy standard. But the bill was never heard by a committee. “As far as I’m concerned that is evidence the will of the Legislature is clearly not there to get it done,” Dobson said. “I think the only way we are going to be able to get these policies done is to go to citizens.”

Proposed amendments to House energy bills requiring 5-percent renewable energy by 2020 were rejected in committee and floor votes. Republican leaders raised concerns about the impact on utility rates.

FREPA will collect petition signatures to place the measure on the ballot in 2012 if it is not taken up in the special session, Dobson said.

Meanwhile, the 527 group Floridians for Excellence has begun airing television ads calling for Crist to introduce legislation in a special session to renew the state’s solar energy rebate program. That program, which has an estimated $25 million in unpaid rebate applications, is scheduled to expire June 30. Crist has hinted that he could take up the RPS proposal or the solar rebate program in a special session.

(Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)