Report looks at renewable energy in Florida listen11/26/08 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.