Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Editorial praises Sen. King’s Energy Bill Compromise

From State University System Chancellor to Florida’s Energy Czar – all in one day.  Here’s a Tallahassee Democrat editorial praising Jacksonville’s Senator Jim King for working out a compromise bill on renewable energy.

Last July, Gov. Charlie Crist signed an executive order mandating that 20 percent of Florida’s electricity be generated by renewable sources by 2020.

It was an ambitious goal, one that recognized the threat that fossil fuels pose to the future of our state as well as the potential that renewable energy has for making us greener and jump-starting our economy.

Legislators called on the Public Service Commission to draft a Renewable Portfolio Standard, much as many other states already have done, and the PSC recommended a 20-by-2020 standard, with a 2-percent cap on additional costs to ratepayers.

That would have put Florida on the road toward development of solar, wind and biomass as major sources of energy.

But nothing is ever that simple. 

The PSC also left the door open for legislators to include other forms of “clean” but not necessarily “renewable” sources — most notably nuclear and coal gasification — in the standards. And when Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness, introduced a bill to do just that — to the delight of Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light, which already use nuclear to generate nearly 20 percent of their power — the battle was on.

Compromise is a wonderful thing.

Sen. Jim King stepped in with SB 1154, which passed through his Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee on Tuesday. That bill redefines the “renewable” standards as “clean” standards, but it lets nuclear power account for only a quarter of the goal of 20 percent.

It’s a politically brilliant move.

Granted, nuclear power is not renewable, and it’s hardly an emerging technology either. But in the effort to combat global climate change, it is a useful weapon. And though there are concerns over safety and the longevity of nuclear waste, we must acknowledge that Chernobyl was 23 years ago and Three Mile Island was 30 years ago. Lessons have been learned.

George Cavros, an attorney for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which had hoped to limit the new standards to renewable sources, nonetheless was thankful to Sen. King for his efforts. If the bill is not further diluted for emerging technologies, it will be a strong boost for economic development through those technologies.

Florida could have hoped for better. Thirty-one states have renewable portfolio standards, with Ohio the only one to include nuclear power.

Still, should Mr. King’s bill pass after several more committee stops and a trip to the House, it will signal a major commitment and a giant step for Florida.

“You have to be bold,” Mr. Cavros said.

In this case, Mr. King was — and wise, too.


Filed under: Florida, Florida Legislature, Florida Politics, Jacksonville, ,

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