Report looks at renewable energy in Florida

11/26/08 Seán Kinane
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In July 2007, Gov. Charlie Crist signed three executive orders with the intent of plotting a new direction for Florida’s energy future. One called on the state’s utility regulators to require that a certain percentage of Florida’s energy be generated from renewable sources.

A draft study was released this week examining the technical potential and costs of renewable energy in the state. George Cavros, an attorney for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said the report focused on two things.

“Number one, the technical potential for renewable energy in Florida, in other words, what’s the maximum extent of renewable energy that we can have in Florida if cost was not a consideration, and that includes solar energy, biomass resources, landfill gas, ocean energy, those types of things. And then the second part of the report looks at cost considerations. It runs certain economic scenarios based on certain assumptions and comes to certain conclusions about which renewable resources are more affordable than others and how much of it we can afford in the short term and up to 2020.”

Public utilities are regulated by the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). Crist has called on them to require utilities to generate 20 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020. The PSC, along with the Governor’s Energy Office, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, hired Navigant Consulting to produce the Florida Renewable Energy Potential Assessment.

According to Navigant’s 269-page report, solar photovoltaic, “solid biomass and offshore wind provide most of Florida’s renewable energy technical potential.” Cavros agrees.

“It’s generally understood that solar energy and biomass have the most immediate opportunity in Florida. … Florida also has extensive farmland and forest and creates quite a lot of agricultural waste. We expect that biomass will play an immediate role in Florida’s renewable energy future as well. And in the longer term, there’s some very encouraging projects going on, looking at ocean energy, tapping the Gulf Stream for energy, and also other projects having to deal with landfill gas, anaerobic digestion and other biomass-type projects.”

The report also says, “Offshore wind has a large technical potential” in the state but the contribution from onshore wind farms in Florida is not expected to be important. The report concluded that by 2020 between 1.8 and 18 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity could be installed in Florida, which would generate between 15,000 and 61,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy – or up to 27 percent of the state’s needs.

The study projects that by 2020 nuclear energy will cost 12.97 cents per kilowatt-hour. Under the most favorable scenario, solar photovoltaic will cost about the same, 13.79 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar will be more expensive under the less favorable scenarios. Eric Draper, deputy director of Audubon of Florida, said this is the first clear data that renewable energy is an affordable alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear as a source of energy for the future.

“Up unto this point, we have lost debate in front of the Public Service Commission to nuclear power. And that is, the proponents of nuclear power have been able to say that this [nuclear power] will be the long-term solution as an alternative to burning coal and natural gas. I think this study is actually going to give us the evidence that we need to be able to carry the case forward that in fact renewable energy is an affordable energy source for the future.”

WMNF attempted to speak with Navigant about the report but they referred us to the Public Service Commission. The only people in the PSC or the Governor’s energy office who had read the report were unavailable for comment on Wednesday. The scenarios outlined in the report differed depending on how many incentives are set aside for producing renewable energy.

“It’s our hope that with the right kind of investment and stimulation of the market by the Public Service Commission, that we will have the prices come down on the installation of solar energy and that the price will [level] at a rate that compares favorably with nuclear energy.” Draper said.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s George Cavros said that Florida is likely to use an incentive called a Renewable Energy Credit or Certificate.

Cavros said that the cost of renewable energies would have fared even better against traditional polluting energy sources like nuclear if billions of dollars in government incentives for nuclear had been taken into account.

The Public Service Commission will discuss the report in a workshop on Dec. 3. Commissioners will then propose a draft Renewable Portfolio Standard to submit to the Legislature by Feb. 1.

Florida Renewables Assessment Study

Florida Public Service Commission

Crist’s 2007 executive orders on energy policy

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

Audubon of Florida

Navigant Consulting

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Below, we have attached the press release for FREPA's Renewable Energy Finance workshop in Orlano on decmber 16th. . FREPA has been a a lead organization working with man others to finally see an RPS on the horizon in Florida. But, at the end of the day, the production of renewable energy... be it, electric generation our the production of biofuels, these are very expensive projects. finacing a renewable energy plant or clean teach veture requires a tremendous level a sophistaication on the part of an entrepreneur i order to make a project real in Florida. It is critical that we start cultivating the market in Florida while we are fine tuning our regulatory infrastructure. See info about workshop. FREPA For Immediate Release Contact: Lisa Irish December 03, 2008 or Ph(850) 222-0441 Florida Renewable Energy Grant, Loan and Finance Workshop to be held in Orlando Tallahassee- The Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association (FREPA) will hold a Florida Renewable Energy Grant, Loan and Finance Workshop in Orlando on December 16, 2008. FREPA is Florida’s leading industry group for renewable energy developers, producers and auxiliary industries in the state of Florida. The workshop will be held at the Rosen Plaza Hotel in Orlando. It will focus on the financing of Florida green industry opportunities ranging from biofuels production projects and project funding for wind (if available), solar, biomass as well as funding for renewable R&D and clean tech startups. There will be representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), along with scheduled representatives from the United States Department of Energy (DOE), the Investment banking community and Florida’s economic development community. All will provide insight into funding for Florida Universities and other research labs for renewable energy research initiatives. “Florida is well positioned to lead the southeast in renewable energy production, and the stars seem to have become aligned just right….. given the commitment from our business leaders and policymakers, said Michael Dobson, President and CEO of FREPA”. Currently, the Public Service Commission (PSC) is working to provide the legislature recommendations for the creation of a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) in Florida which is a mandate that a certain percentage of electricity generated in Florida will be from renewable’s. This action is a response dictated by the legislature (as a directive in HB7135 passed in the 2008) to the governors executive order . The governors executive order asked that the percentage be 20% by 2020 which is what FREPA has endorsed and written about over the last few years. “Florida’s agriculture community has also seen opportunity from the growers perspective and the producers who will work with our farmers as well as large landowners. It is now time to put the pieces together in Florida and make all the grandiose ideas a reality, says Michael Dobson.” “Governor Crist, along with other elected leaders and our business community have a wonderful opportunity to show Florida as a progressive state that is eager to attract 21st century jobs, build a 21st century economy and change the constant perception that we are not the best state for (nor are interested in) high tech startups, said Michael Dobson.” The workshop in Orlando is a key step toward bringing the renewable energy business community, researchers, farmers, scientist and investors together to understand how to use the tools that are available. To attend the workshop, please register online at at the “Industry Events” link or download a registration form to be faxed to (850) 222-0447.

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