House committee approves bill to encourage renewables at cost to consumers
After beating back an attempt to open the renewables market for competition, proponents of a bill to give the state's largest utility companies the ability to charge customers as much as $2 billion over five years swept through a House committee Tuesday.
The freshman-dominated committee rejected arguments that the measure imposes a legislatively-imposed tax and closes the door on competition for renewable energy development because it allows the state's investor-owned electric monopolies to control the market.
Jon Moyle, lobbyist for the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, said that the utility companies want the measure to raises rates, making up lost revenues from Florida's lack of population growth.
"We have a concern that this bill authorizes a legislative rate increase to the tune of about $2 billion,'' he said. "We think that's not called for right now. We don’t have a need for new energy right now. Florida’s growth rate is flat."
A stream of speakers told the committee that the measure will stifle, not encourage renewable energy development in Florida.
"There are many examples of small producers that can produce electricity and sell it,'' said Richard Pinsky, lobbyist with the Florida Alliance of Renewable Energy. "Can they do it reliably and inexpensively and the answer is yes. This bill as drafted will absolutely stop that from happening."
Rep. Clay Ford, chairman of the committee and a Pensacola Republican, called it a first step because Florida is embarrassingly behind other states in renewable energy policies. "This is going to help get us started down that path,'' he said.