April 13th, 2011
Every program faces unforeseen challenges after first launch, and smart program administrators make adjustments along the way. Gainesville is no exception. When the municipal utility’s feed-in tariff program launched a few years ago, 8 years of contract availability–a total of 32 MW–sold out in 4 months, most to one or two developers. Since then, a large chunk of contracts have dropped out, and the utility has taken some of the lessons learned from their experience and incorporated them into a new FIT, version 2.0. Going forward, about 6.2 MW of contracts will be available from 2012 to 2016 under the new structure.
» Read the rest of this entry «
April 12th, 2011
Lots going on in Florida right now with the legislative session approximately half way over. In an effort to bring more stakeholders into the fold and make the case for increased in-state investment in developing the Florida solar market, Vote Solar recently teamed up to bring the Space Coast Energy Consortium to Tallahassee. Susan Glickman, Director of the Florida Business Network for a Clean Energy Economy, contributes a guest post on the field trip:
Florida’s Space Coast is facing the end of NASA’s Shuttle Program later this year. Brevard County leaders are seeking tools to build a clean and sustainable energy economy in their region to help offset some of the dislocation associated with the end of the Shuttle Program. » Read the rest of this entry «
May 11th, 2010
Florida recently experienced two tragedies.
The first, of course, is the tragedy in the Gulf-11 lives lost, an ecosystem in peril.
The second is the fact that the legislative session just ended without, once again, significant legislation to develop our clean, homegrown renewable energy resources.
It’s a different order of tragedy to be sure, and we don’t mean to equate the two. But with the spotlight focused on one of the downsides of fossil fuels, we have the opportunity to help set the state on the path towards a more sustainable clean energy future. Governor Crist has already said that the oil spill should resurrect the clean energy debate.
Talk is cheap. It’s time for action.
Click here to ask the Governor and the leaders of the House and Senate to initiate a special session devoted to debating–and passing–a bill to harness Florida’s clean, renewable energy resources? There will never be a better time to make the case.
May 3rd, 2010
The Florida legislative session has ended with no major goal to increase the production of renewable energy in the state. Its a disappointment for sure, but not hugely surprising given the on-going tensions between the legislature, the governor, and the PSC, and a lack of clear consensus from all players on the best way to grow the renewable energy market.
There is one bright spot in an otherwise dim session: an important bill has passed that gives municipalities the authority to create Property Tax Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Financing programs. This bill has the potential to create real growth in the future by providing a financing tool that makes it easier for homeowners and businesses to install solar and energy efficiency measures. Vote Solar worked with stakeholders to promote PACE and provided analysis and bill suggestions to House staff. To learn more about PACE, visit here.
PACE enjoyed enthusiastic support from stakeholders on all sides of the political spectrum, which helped the bill navigate a difficult session. In fact, PACE was the very last bill to pass this session! Supporters of the bill included the FL Association of Counties, the FL League of Cities, environmental groups, housing developers, and the solar industry. Dozens of cities have expressed interest in creating PACE programs and its very possible that we’ll see a statewide PACE program in the next year. Stay tuned…
December 15th, 2009
Good news from Florida. Earlier this month, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously voted to make $24.5 million per year available as direct rebates for solar PV and solar hot water systems.
The rebate monies were approved as part of the PSC docket to update energy efficiency and demand-side management program goals, a process that happens every 5 years for the state’s investor-owned utilities. Utilities now have 90 days to develop programs to submit to the PSC for approval.
The Florida Solar Coalition — comprised of Solar Alliance, Florida SEIA, and Vote Solar — intervened in the docket and is pleased with the progress. While the rebate funds are still small compared to the state’s enormous market potential, it is very welcome news after a year where renewable energy policy seemed to be stalled in the state.
In particular, this should help alleviate pressure on the current solar rebate program administered by the state’s Energy Office. This program has been constantly oversubscribed, underfunded at $5 million/year (although federal stimulus funds did help boost this program this year), and the required annual appropriation of funds through the legislature means program uncertainty each year. We’re happy to see some creative use of DSM funds to support solar until we can put a more stable long-term market in place with an RPS.
Hopefully this vote for solar signals good things to come in the Sunshine State in 2010!
May 18th, 2009
The Sunshine State’s legislative session ended on May 1st without putting any significant new renewable policies in place. It’s an unfortunate ending to be sure, but the story of solar in Florida’s 2009 legislative session was filled with highs, lows, and a host of unexpected plot twists.
Solar advocates, environmental groups and the renewable energy industry joined forces in hopes of passing an aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of 20% by 2020. Further boosting our chances of a good outcome was strong support from the Governor, who listed it as one of his legislative priorities, and the Senate, which was engaged early on in the effort.
Despite widespread support for the RPS and hard work from coalition members, two major obstacles proved insurmountable this time around: a debilitating budget deficit and a last-minute campaign to open up Florida’s coast to oil drilling.
The primary focus of both House and Senate efforts this session, the $2 billion budget deficit left legislators with little bandwidth for other important issues, particularly anything as complex as new renewable energy legislation.
Then with just weeks to go before the session timed out, what little attention that was left for renewables was spent when the House introduced an oil drilling bill that many feared would be tied to the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Passage of an RPS alongside oil drilling does NOT spell victory in our book.
Thankfully, the move to open coastal oil drilling was ultimately rejected by both the Governor and the Senate. During the closing week, the Senate passed a version of the RPS bill that, while not perfect, represented a significant step forward by allocating up to $200 million per year to solar and wind projects. However, in the end, efforts fell flat in the House which never took up the RPS issue.
Our alliance of renewable advocates put up an amazing fight, even through the last day of session. In the process, we saw an impressive range of stakeholders come together around a united call for renewable energy policy change. Vote Solar’s own “help wanted” campaign was one of many successful public efforts to highlight solar’s economic and environmental benefits. The combined effort resulted in editorials in nearly every major newspaper calling upon legislators to stop waiting and start tapping Florida’s solar resource. All in all, it was the kind of coalition building and strong public engagement of which advocates dream.
So the sun has set on statewide solar policy in Florida for now, but it will certainly rise another day – and soon. We will be working hard with our allies over the next year to make sure strong renewable policies cross the finish line in 2010.
April 3rd, 2009
I just got back from an exciting week in Florida where a number of national and state organizations gathered to present Governor Crist with the Golden Meter award for the excellent net metering rules adopted last year.
On Tuesday March 31st, I was part of a group to present Governor Charlie Crist with the third annual “Golden Meter” award for Florida’s net metering rules that were adopted last year. The awarding organizations included Network for New Energy Choices, Solar Alliance, Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Vote Solar and the state solar trade association, FlaSEIA.
The rules were the result of the Governor’s Executive Order 127 which called for opening markets for renewable energy. To learn more about Florida’s best-of-class net metering rules, click here (PDF).
The award ceremony coincided with the first hearing of a Senate bill to establish a renewable portfolio standard. As it stands, it essentially creates a 20% standard for “clean energy” by 2020, three-quarters of which must come from renewable energy sources and 1/4 may come from new nuclear. The bill would provide up to $400 million/year for renewable energy projects, with half of that going to solar. This is just the beginning, and things are moving very fast, so stay tuned…
R to L: Barry Moline (Florida Municipal Electric Association), Chris Maingot (Superior Solar/FlaSEIA), Bruce Kershner (FlaSEIA), James Rose (NNEC), Gwen Rose (Vote Solar), Governor Crist, Martha Duggan (SunEdison/Solar Alliance), Yann Brandt (AGT), Rich Paul-Hus (Hypower Inc), Nick Larossi (Southern Alliance for Clean Energy), and Brecht Huechan (Solar Alliance)
January 9th, 2009
Posted by Gwen
The Florida Public Service Commission voted to approve a draft RPS rule that would require utillities obtain 20% of their electricity from renewable energy, with 25% coming from solar and wind resources. Now the draft rule goes to the Legislature for ratification.
Good elements of the draft rule:
- 20 percent by 2020 goal
- Solar and wind will provide 1/4 of the 20% goal
- Solar and wind projects may get up to $300 Million each year to meet the goals
- The goals are mandatory, not aspirational
- The rule will remain a Renewable Portfolio Standard and not be expanded to include clean coal and nuclear…for now (see caveat below)
What could be better:
- The cost of the RPS is capped at 2 percent of utility revenues, which we feel is too low (we have asked for 4%)
- The commission has left room for the Legislature to consider changing the rule to a Clean Energy Portfolio Standard, which could then allow nuclear to participate
- The recommendation lacks clear provisions for long-term contracts
- Additional provisions will be needed to ensure that small solar electric and solar hot water customers can participate in the market
Now the fight moves to the Legislature, and like everything in Florida, we don’t expect this will be an easy one. Stayed tuned.
December 5th, 2008
On Wednesday, Dec 3rd, I went down to Florida to participate in the last public workshop on Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) before the final draft of the rule comes out on Dec 29th. There were two highlights: first was the presentation from Navigant Consulting, where they reviewed the results of their report which looked at the potential for renewable development in Florida. I’d say the results were positive: not only does Florida have more than enough renewables to reach a 20% by 2020 target, but it can do so with relatively low impact to customer’s pocketbooks. Renewable advocates are hopeful that this will lead to a revision of the current draft rule, which sets an anemic target for utilities to obtain 20% of their electricity from renewable energy by 2041 (?!!).
The second highlight of the workshop was an alternative proposal from Commissioner Nathan Skop to develop a standard offer program for renewable energy development. His proposal would set a target of 20% by 2020 and renewable developers would be able to access long-term contracts at prices that make investing in Florida more attractive. While many details would need to be worked out, we think this could be an exciting direction for Florida to move in; and it is very similar to what our group has been pushing for all along.
In either case, it is critical that the state establish a strong RPS target and the right framework to encourage a diversity of renewable resources. To that end, Vote Solar has joined a diverse group of renewable developers and environmental groups to establish the Renewable Energy Alliance (REAL). REAL has established core principles that we are banding together to fight for in order to drive renewable energy market growth in the state:
(1) Set meaningful targets and a timeline, mirroring the Governor’s proposal of 20 percent by 2020, which are expected to secure renewable energy technology investment and job creation in Florida in a diverse mix of distributed renewable energy, as defined in Florida statute (in HB 7135), by technology, size and ownership.
(2) Promote a cost protection mechanism that encourages rapid development of renewable energy and recognizes the benefit of diversity that renewable energy resources can play in insulating ratepayers from the risk of volatile conventional fuel rate increases.
(3) Promote fair competition between utility self-built renewable projects and third-party renewable projects including but not limited to offering long-term standard offer contracts for renewable resources.
(4) Promote an enforcement mechanism for compliance and ensures non-compliance is more expensive than compliance.
(5) Remove interconnection barriers and give renewable energy resources priority to the transmission grid.
February 15th, 2007
Despite having a great solar resource, there has been very little development of a solar PV market in Florida. Ditto for other indigenous renewable resources. There isn’t a lot of info as to how much renewable energy capacity actually exists in the state, but estimates fluctuate between 1% – 3% of total capacity. Most of that is biomass or municipal solid waste.
But the passage of last year’s 2006 Energy Bill has provided grants and incentives for solar and there are the beginnings of a buzz in the air. So far, I’ve made two trips to Florida this year to talk about solar policies. The first trip was to participate in a renewable energy workshop held by the FL Public Service Commission. The second trip was to give presentations to the sister committees on public utilities for the FL Senate and House.
Here I am at the Florida House Committee on Communications & Public Utilities, most likely describing the size of the solar market in Florida today.
Now I’m persuasively demonstrating how big it COULD be with the right policies and programs in place. See? Much bigger.
I’m optimistic that we’ll see more action from Florida in the near future. Floridians certainly stand to benefit from a robust solar market — there’s that nickname to live up to, of course, and the fact that they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate. But there is also a real need to diversify Florida’s energy mix and move away from a pretty hefty dependence on natural gas and oil. Very little petroleum is actually used to generate electricity in the US — its only about 2% of the fuel mix. However, according to US Energy Information Administration, a whopping 34% of that is consumed in Florida — this represents the single largest share.
Between committee meetings, I had a little time to explore Tallahassee. Near Florida State University, I found a colorful community in a neighborhood called Railroad Square. Art galleries, vintage thrift stores, a small cafe, and (my favorite) the local rock climbing gym. Here I am enjoying the scenery…