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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Renewables bill dies of its own weight -- for the third consecutive year

26

April

Senate budget chief, J.D. Alexander, has surveyed the patient and declared the renewables bill finished for this legislative session.

“I’d pronounce that one dead,'' said Alexander, after the Senate budget committee meeting. "I don’t routinely do that, but that one’s dead."

This is the third year the bill has been the priority of Florida Power & Light, and it is the third time the bill has died. The only thing new this year is that the Koch brothers-backed Americans For Prosperity joined in the chorus of opponents to argue against the bill.

Meanwhile, the state's largest utility hired many lobbyists, seeded the Senate president and House speaker's political funds with thousands in contributions, and donated more than $4 million to legislators, the governor, and the political parties in the last two years. Why? Alexander offered this autopsy:

"I think it’s a terrible idea,'' said Alexander, a citrus grower from Frostproof. "I can’t believe we’d ask Florida to pay $1 billion in additional assessments with zero regulatory oversight. I think that’s fundamentally not right.”

He noted that for the third year in a row promoters of the bill tried to get automatic recovery for the cost of building solar power plants without regulatory oversight. He proposed an amendment requiring the Public Service Commission approve of any cost recovery and require that the company invest in renewable energy generation only if renewables do not cost more than the average cost of existing energy generation -- a requirement opposed by FPL.

“If it’s a good thing to do, go through the process, sell people of Florida on why it’s a good idea, that’s why we have a process,'' Alexander told reporters. "Although I don’t believe in popularizing rate-setting to the extent some people want to do, I’m also not on the side of utilities. I think there’s a middle ground where you responsibly regulate these things.

“You can’t consider public policy arguments about moving forward on alternatives. I wish solar had something that made sense but I don’t think that’s there today. A better approach in my mind would be to invest in research and development to get to a point where you have technology that is cost-effective, rather than a technology that is multiples of what it costes ot geneate other energy in the state.

“You’re not only taking the consumers [cost] up a bit, you’re also disadvantaging any other manufacturing process or commercial uses -- it’s a hidden tax on the entire economy of Florida to buy very little.''

Then, Alexander broke the code. By giving the state's electric companies the ability to raise rates to recover the cost of building solar power plants, and by making sure no one else competes with them, he said: "It works well for utilities. Right now, we don’t even need a lot of power added to the grid. So if you can go out and buy solar -- which is six times as expensive as base load generation -- you can spend a lot of money. You’re going to make your margin on that and you don’t crowd the grid."

“So you get to keep adding capital that your’e making a guaranteed profit on without overloading the capacity on the grid. It’s a pretty sweet deal.”

 

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 9:22pm]

    

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