Monday, April 27, 2009

Renewable energy will benefit Florida

How we establish energy policy will go a long way to helping Florida and our nation get out of these tough economic times. State and national standards requiring electric utilities to generate a modest amount of clean, renewable energy will be an important step. We can unleash a new frontier centered on smart grid technology, energy efficiency and renewable energy starting right here in Florida. A diverse energy market based on these technologies will protect families from an overreliance on dirty energy sources that are price-volatile, such as natural gas, and expensive, such as nuclear reactors.

Prices for natural gas have spiked unpredictably over the last few years and the estimate to construct nuclear reactors has increased threefold since 2006. Indeed, Progress Energy's high nuclear cost ($17 billion) has already lead to sharp rate increases for Progress customers — $6 per month — even before construction begins. The company will be billing customers for close to 10 years before the first electron is ever produced from its nuclear reactors. Rates are projected to increase more than $40 per month in 2017 to cover construction costs.

But while this is happening, renewable power prices are coming down. For example, biopower produced from forest and agriculture waste materials has far less capital cost and can be brought on line faster and in smaller blocks than the massive nuclear plants that tend to overshoot demand and lock in high costs for utility bill payers.

Florida has the opportunity to jump into the growing solar market that allows customers to take advantage of a power source that is experiencing declining cost, tremendous employment opportunities and will provide true clean energy for our children and grandchildren.

The simple fact is that big power companies such as Progress want to maintain big profits for their shareholders at ratepayer expense, and the best way to do that is by building big, expensive plants that get into the base rate and garner a good rate of return for the company's shareholders.

Policies that promote smaller distributed renewable generation, like solar and bioenergy, will allow more players into the market, create jobs and provide more competition to the big power companies that force them to be more innovative. And that's exactly what the Florida economy, workers and utility customers need now.

No comments: