House energy bill gets initial committee approval

Officials from NASA and Florida Power & Light Company Thursday commissioned FPL’s Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center. The solar power facility is located at Kennedy Space Center and is producing an estimated 10 megawatts of power, which is enough energy to serve 1,100 homes.

A proposed House committee bill that attempts to expand the use of renewable energy in the state received initial approval Friday from the House Energy & Utilities Policy Committee.

PCB EUP6 would allow four investor-owned utilities to recover more than $300 million from customers for new renewable energy projects. Representatives of Audubon of Florida and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said Friday the bill will increase renewable energy though they would have preferred specific renewable requirements.

The committee rejected an amendment by Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, that would have required utilities to provide at least 5 percent of their energy from renewable sources. That’s less than the 20 percent recommended by the Public Service Commission in 2009.

The bill allows utilities to recover costs for up to 735 megawatts of additional renewable energy through 2013. The bill also requires that utilities provide standard-offer contracts to renewable energy producers at costs higher than the typical cheaper forms of energy.

Terry Deason, representing the state’s largest investor-owned utilities, said the bill will “unnecessarily” increase electricity costs for consumers without helping utilities plan for their future energy needs.

Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando and committee chairman, said the panel could hold two more meetings to discuss the bill. The Senate Committee on Communications, Energy and Public Utilities could offer a draft version of an energy bill next week.

(Photo courtesy of Florida Power & Light Co. Story provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)