Bipartisan solutions for resilient Florida schools
Florida’s public and charter schools present a huge opportunity and risk for climate resilience. As hurricane season becomes longer and more intense, Florida needs local solutions that will help communities stay connected with local power sources, stay cool with air conditioning and save money month after month. Solar and storage for our schools achieves these goals and more.
However, failing to invest in energy resilience for our schools will mean higher energy bills, draining much needed resources from education, to the tune of 500 million dollars per year. And potentially thousands of members of our communities without power during extreme weather events: 97% of emergency shelters in Florida are K-12 schools, but only about 100 of them have solar + storage systems.
SB1538/HB1487: Resilient Schools for Florida, sponsored by Senator Rodriguez (R) and Representative McCurdy (D), is the solution Florida needs to protect our neighbors and communities. This bill will create a pilot program for Florida’s Department of Education to provide technical assistance to help schools lower operational costs while becoming energy secure. Up to five school districts can participate during 2021-22.
The bill also gives electric utilities expanded policy tools to help schools lower energy bills, harnessing cost-saving technologies and tap into more financing opportunities like power purchase agreements (PPAs) that avoid upfront costs.
The benefits of Resilient Schools are clear:
- Energy Savings Energy is typically among the top 3 expenses for schools. This program unlocks more savings, keeping dollars in schools.
- Healthy Environment Clean energy reduces air and carbon pollution, leaving a healthier Florida for our children.
- Community Resilience Using solar and on-site battery storage to provide backup power for schools during outages
- Educational STEM Opportunities Schools’ investments in energy saving technologies such as solar provide real-world learning opportunities in STEM field
Solar on schools can work for states like Florida. In Arkansas, Batesville School District worked with an energy expert who found the district could lower its $600,000 annual utility bills by at least $2.4 million over 20 years using solar power, updated lighting and windows and efficient heating and cooling systems. The project has turned a $250K budget deficit into a $1.8 million surplus in just three years. The district is now raising teacher salaries by $3,000 and 20 other school districts in Arkansas are following their example.
Help Florida schools save on their energy bills while investing in more resilient communities. Support SB1538/HB1487: Resilient Schools for Florida.