Nuclear, coal not in renewable energy rule

By Bruce Ritchie

“Clean” Coal as renewable energy? No way.

That was the sentiment of a majority of the Florida Public Service Commission on Friday when it considered adopting a proposed rule to require utilities to produce a percentage of their energy from renewable sources.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions that scientists say contribute to climate change, Gov. Charlie Crist in 2007 asked the PSC to require that 20 percent of energy come from renewable sources by 2020.

The Legislature last year in a sweeping energy bill directed the commission to come up with a proposed standard by Feb. 1.

Commissioners said they understood that solar, wind and biomass are sources of renewable energy. Clean coal and nuclear also were discussed as part of the rule being considered on Friday.

But a commission majority stated that coal shouldn’t be considered renewable energy, siding with environmentalists who said the rule is intended to promote the use of emerging technologies.

“I could never vote for clean energy if it includes coal,” Commissioner Nancy Argenziano said. “I don’t know of any ‘clean’ coal. I don’t know how that got in there.”

She also said nuclear energy, along with coal plants in which the carbon is captured and stored to prevent it from entering the atmosphere, may be considered “clean” energy — but she said both still are not “renewable.”

Commission Chairman Matthew M. Carter II and Commissioner Nathan A. Skop likewise said they couldn’t vote for coal as renewable energy.

The commission voted to adopt the 20 percent requirement by 2020, siding with environmental groups which also opposed including coal and nuclear.

But Argenziano, a former Republican senator from Dunnellon, said the battle likely wouldn’t end with the PSC. The recommendation now goes to the Legislature for consideration during its regular session, which begins in March.

“The Legislature, as I said before, is going to be the final determination,” she said. “The battles are going begin after we leave this room.”

Copyright by Bruce Ritchie