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PROGRESS ENERGY'S GREEN EFFORT PLEASES CRIST // ...TO RENEWABLES

Since Gov. Charlie Crist's climate summit several weeks ago, green power proposals have been sprouting up all over the state.

With his implacable good cheer, Crist smiled at a knot of reporters gathered on the lawn of the Governor's Mansion Thursday morning, and announced that Progress Energy agreed to buy power from a 75-megawatt waste-wood biomass plant planned in Liberty County by Biomass Gas & Electric.

"This partnership is another example of the tremendous opportunities that are available in going green," Crist said, pointing out that it was just the latest in a string of clean-power initiatives.

But Crist's optimism can't obscure some sobering math: It would take more than 106 such plants to displace just a fifth of the state's current energy capacity. The projected output of the waste-wood plant accounts for less than 1 percent of Progress Energy's 9,000-megawatt capacity.

Similarly, FPL Energy announced plans last week with Citrus Energy LLC of Boca Raton to build a 4-million gallon plant that will use citrus peels to make ethanol. But Floridians will burn more than 2,300 times that many gallons of gasoline this year, according to the Florida Consumer Action Network.

The announcements followed Crist's climate summit in Miami where he signed three executive orders that call for sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, energy-efficient construction and appliances, and strict emissions targets for vehicles sold in Florida. He also asked the Public Service Commission to write rules requiring utilities to get 20 percent of their energy from renewable power.

The PSC began that work Thursday morning, a few miles from Crist's press conference. In contrast to the relatively quick press briefing, the PSC meeting underscored the slog still ahead.

While academics and entrepreneurs enthusiastically touted new energy sources like water currents and cow manure, utilities cautioned that Crist's 20 percent target may be too aggressive.

"Twenty percent is clearly a stretch goal," said Vincent Dolan, Progress Energy's vice president of external relations.

It remains unclear how the state will calculate how much of a utility's output comes from renewable sources and when the utilities will have to meet the target. Commissioner Lisa Polak Edgar said it will be several months before the PSC completes its rules.

Chris Kise, counselor to Crist, hurried over to the PSC meeting after the conclusion of Crist's remarks.

Kise reminded the Public Service Commission on Thursday of Crist's motto: "It can be done."

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at (813) 225-3117 or aloder@sptimes.com.

FAST FACTS

Recent efforts

Green power initiatives since Crist's climate summit in Miami two weeks ago:

- Tampa-based Seminole Electric Cooperative Inc. is soliciting proposals for a project to capture carbon dioxide released from its proposed Seminole Generating Station Unit 3 facility.

- Progress Energy Florida, based in St. Petersburg, put out a request to energy producers seeking ways to generate power from renewable resources.

- FPL Energy signed a letter of intent with Citrus Energy LLC of Boca Raton to build a 4-million gallon plant that will use citrus peels to make ethanol.

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