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  1. Opinion

How conservatives in Florida can get in the game on renewable energy

Help the markets determine winners in the renewables the Sunshine State needs. | Column
The Florida Power & Light solar facility is seen in Arcadia. [CHRIS URSO | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Sep. 19
Kendall Kelley [BOB DAEMMRICH | Bob Daemmrich ]

To conserve is conservative. For far too long, conservatives have allowed energy issues to be championed by progressive liberals. Now is the time for conservatives to lead on energy policy, offer solutions that encourage innovation, stimulate economic development, and enhance the growth of clean energy sources.

President Ronald Reagan said it best when he said a superior natural resources policy is one that favors those institutions by which new resources are substituted for old ones: individual enterprise, guided by the price signals of the market, and technological advances that conserve resources and permit them to be used more efficiently.

Florida is emerging as a national leader in renewable energy and, as a result, renewable energy has become an economic driver in our state. With over 10,000 solar workers, Florida now has the second-highest number of solar jobs in the country and is expected to continue to grow in the coming years.

Through innovation and technology, we know that renewable energy can drive job creation and economic development, as we have seen across Florida. We can also gain energy independence through clean energy alternatives, enhancing our national security. Job creation and national security have been an integral part in conservative values and clean energy can strengthen both.

Through partnerships with the Department of Defense, utilities are engaging directly with emerging technologies and new business models benefiting both our nation’s security and the communities they serve. Gulf Power Company and the U.S. military announced contracts in 2017 for the construction of 3 large solar plants in Florida: a project at Saufley Field in Pensacola, a project at Holley Field in Navarre, and a project at Eglin Air Force Base. With the tension that continues to rise between the U.S. and Iran, energy independence is more important than ever before.

In 2016 Floridians passed a constitutional amendment which provided an exemption from property taxes on solar and renewable energy devices. This has helped bring more solar energy to Florida. This exemption continues to encourage expansion of solar and renewable energy production in Florida, leading the growth of the renewable energy industry in the state. In 2018, the Florida Public Service Commission made a decision that will continue to expand solar in the state. They decided that Sunrun Inc., the largest US resident-solar company, could operate in Florida and provide 20-year solar-equipment lease to consumers. This will continue to broaden access to solar energy for Floridians and expand the industry even more.

With Governor DeSantis prioritizing the environment by creating a Chief Science Officer and with Congressman Matt Gaetz introducing the Green Real Deal, clean energy is no longer just popular among liberals and independents. It is now growing in popularity among conservatives. Energy should no longer be treated as a partisan issue.

Floridians of all political interests agree that we should minimize red tape and regulations that make it more difficult to used wind, solar and other renewable energy sources for the generation of electricity. Eighty-three percent of Floridians believe that we should pursue an all-of-the-above energy strategy to increase generation from emerging technologies like wind and solar. This would continue Florida’s leadership in the renewable energy industry.

With supportive policies at the state and local levels, Florida has enormous potential for expansion and job growth in clean energy.

Kendall Kelley is state director of Conservatives for Clean Energy.

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