Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Trade groups band together for renewable energy
Workers are trained at the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa to install solar panels.
An informal coalition of renewable energy trade groups have developed a policy statement that they hope will push the Florida Legislature to take action on renewable energy.
Some legislators have cited disagreement among renewable energy groups as a challenge in developing renewable energy legislation.
HB 7229 would have allowed utilities to recover the cost of renewable energy projects from their customers. The bill passed the House despite concerns from some renewable energy groups but died in the Senate as concerns were raised about the cost to consumers. The interest groups involved in the issue included utilities, solar energy providers, biomass energy producers, environmental groups and even pulp and paper mills.
"They all have their own ideas on how we should approach this," Rep. Stephen Precourt, R-Orlando and chairman of the House Energy & Utilities Committee, said after HB 7229 died in the Senate. "It's hard to do that [build consensus] and produce legislation."
The new policy statement calls on the state to establish and energy plan with renewable energy goals that encourage or require use of energy from smaller producers. The groups that signed onto the statement last week are the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, the Florida Renewable Energy Association, the Florida Renewable Energy Producer's Association, the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, Floridians for Energy Independence, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Covanta Energy and the Florida Brownfields Association.
Their statement also supports paying down the backlog in the Florida solar rebate program, which ended on Wednesday with more than $41 million in applications. The Legislature has refused to fund the program since 2008.
The groups also want a constitutional amendment that limits increases in the taxable value on commercial property for solar panels or other energy projects similar to the existing limits in place for residential properties.
Smaller scale renewable energy projects create more local jobs and have more local economic impact that larger utility projects, said Mike Antheil, executive director of the Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy.
With the new policy statement, "We can now say we're on the same page in trying to get some kind of policy in place for the small to mid-scale (producers) market in the state," Anthiel said.
(Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Photo courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.)