A Path Toward Renewable Energy

Photo Gainesville Sun


Today in the Gainesville Sun, Nathan Crabbe has written an article promoting solar energy in Florida, and he points out how far behind our state is compared to others, even those with less sunshine.  It is a given that we will resort to solar some day when fossil fuels run out, but utility corporations who have so much invested in oil are trying hard to prolong the dirty fuel system which pollutes unnecessarily.

In the September, 2016 issue of “Kilowatt, the Newsletter for Members of Clay Electric Cooperative, Inc.” the message is totally inaccurate and misleading, in that they say the consumer will be protected by Amendment 1. The truth is that utility companies will be protected, not the consumer.  For some reason, this message, which appears on page five of the hard copy of the newsletter, does not appear in the on line version.  There we do not find a page five.

Please read carefully the following editorial and then vote “NO” on Amendment 1 in November.

Our thanks go to Nathan Crabbe and the Gainesville Sun for promoting clean energy.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-

Editorial: A path toward renewable energy

Sunday Sept. 18 2016

Posted at 2:01 AM

Nathan Crabbe

Florida has a choice as it charts its energy future. It can make the same mistakes as states where the injection of fracking wastewater is increasing earthquakes, coal ash is poisoning rivers and groundwater, and offshore oil wells suffer spills that foul coastlines and kill wildlife.

Or Florida can play to its strengths as a place where people flock for sunshine and beaches, by expanding the use of solar power and reducing the pollution warming our planet and otherwise harming our environment and health.

Widespread support for Amendment 4 was a welcome sign that we’re ready to take the latter path — but another amendment on the horizon and efforts in cities such as Alachua risk taking a step backward.

Amendment 4 extends a residential tax break available for renewable energy systems to commercial properties. Nearly 73 percent of voters approved the measure in August, a sign that Floridians want the Sunshine State to live up that moniker by promoting the use of solar power.

Unfortunately, Florida’s utilities are taking advantage of public support for solar by pushing a deceptive amendment to protect their energy monopolies.

The state’s biggest utilities have spent millions of dollars funding the misleadingly named group Consumers for Smart Solar to try to pass Amendment 1 on the November ballot. The measure would put existing rules on solar power into the state Constitution and open the door to punitive rates for solar users.

Thankfully a coalition has formed across political lines — including the League of Women Voters, the Christian Coalition and the Green Party of Florida — to urge voters to “Vote ‘no’ on 1, don’t block the sun.” They rightly say the amendment’s true aim is limiting measures that promote solar under the pretense they’re being subsidized by other customers.

Studies by public service commissions in other states have found that solar energy can actually provide cost savings for solar and non-solar customers alike. Solar installations can reduce the need to build hugely expensive power plants to meet peak demand and make costly upgrades to the electric grid.

Most importantly, solar promotes energy security and reduces the pollution causing climate change and other damage to our environment and health. Yet some don’t see these long-term benefits and are instead putting obstacles in the way of solar.

The Alachua City Commission last week approved an unnecessary new $10 monthly fee on all solar systems hooked up to the city’s electric grid. The good news is it was half of the $20 initially considered and the commission also increased the maximum allowable capacity of solar arrays in the city to 1,500 kilowatts from 150.

With only about 143 MW of residential and commercial rooftop solar capacity statewide, Florida has a long way to go to catch states that are solar leaders. California has about 5,600 MW in capacity and even less sunny states such as New Jersey and Massachusetts have about 1,400 MW and 1,200 MW respectively, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Florida should follow these states’ lead by implementing aggressive renewable energy standards and other incentives for solar energy — the type of things utilities have successfully fought here. A ballot initiative that would have allowed property owners to sign lease agreements with solar companies to finance and install equipment unfortunately failed to make November’s ballot.

Instead we’re left with Amendment 1 potentially cementing the status quo, or worse, for solar energy. If we want a future filled with clean beaches and water rather than relying more heavily on polluting fossil fuels, we need to chart a different direction for Florida.

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