Renewable energy bill with business backing clears committee

A bill that would allow utilities to charge customers in advance for renewable energy projects cleared a Senate committee Wednesday. SB 1186 received backing from several business groups and firms that said the bill would quickly spur the growth of solar and other renewable energy technologies in Florida.

The Senate Committee on Communications, Energy and Public Utilities adopted the bill by an 8-1 vote. Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, voted against the bill, saying utility customers will pay the cost for the renewable energy investments by utilities. Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton and the bill’s sponsor, responded that the bill’s committee substitute contains caps that limit rate increases to 2 percent the first year and 1 percent in the following two years.

Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., IBM, Kitson & Partners and Advanced Green Technologies were among the companies and business groups that were backing SB 1186 as more viable than other bills that face opposition from Florida’s largest utilities. Renewable energy legislation could produce 40,000 jobs for the state, according to a Washington Economics Group study released earlier this week.

“We’ve been sort of frustrated by the Legislature not adopting favorable renewable energy policy,” Rich Paul-Hus, of Hypower and Associated Builders and Contractors, told reporters on a conference call. SB 1186, he said, “would allow for companies like mine to hire a significant number of workers.”

The committee didn’t have time to consider proposed committee substitute for SB 992 by Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami and committee chairman. That bill contains renewable energy incentives that the major investor-owned utilities are objecting to in HB 7209 by the House Energy & Utilities Policy Committee.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)