1. Opinion

Editorial: Sunshine State, but not for energy

Published Dec. 13, 2013

Something's wrong when New Jersey, Georgia and Mississippi have bragging rights on Florida. But that's the sorry state of solar power development, and it's time the Sunshine State lived up to its name.

Georgia's Republican utility regulator hammered home the point this month at an annual meeting in Orlando of industry professionals, highlighting the huge gains Georgia is making and debunking the excuses that others in government and industry have peddled about the prohibitive cost of cleaner energy. Bubba McDonald led the effort in 2010 to create 50 megawatts of solar in Georgia, about one-third of Florida's capacity. By the end of 2016, Georgia's solar capacity will reach 790 megawatts, dwarfing Florida's.

The trick is simple: Use hard targets or incentives to induce the power companies to develop solar as a larger part of the energy mix. Georgia gives state regulators the latitude to require utilities to include various sources of energy for electricity generation. North Carolina has required the use of renewable energy. Dozens of states have targets that push the industry to provide a percentage of their power from renewable sources. Florida lawmakers have opposed giving the state Public Service Commission that same authority; for now, the PSC reviews utility plans for "efficient, cost-effective" generation. That's code for a backward-looking model that encourages the industry to build new plants and to sell as much electricity as possible.

Renewables such as solar and efficiency programs are the cheapest sources of developing new energy capacity. What the industry needs is a push in that direction to spawn the types of research and investment that would make solar and other cleaner sources competitive with traditional forms of energy. Lisa Edgar, a PSC commissioner, said Florida wants more solar but "we haven't figured it out." What the PSC has mastered is a regulatory environment that forces Duke Energy customers to pay $3 billion for the company's failed nuclear ambitions and not get a single kilowatt of nuclear power in return.

Other states have figured out solar, and it starts with political leadership. California, the leading state, has 2,900 megawatts of installed solar; Arizona, about 1,100. The Sunshine State is not even in the top 12. The renewables industry has pleaded for years for Florida to adopt a more forward-looking business model, one that creates a climate for investment while giving energy manufacturers regulatory certainty. In Florida, utility executives have said they can add more solar if consumers are willing to pay more for it. But with federal tax credits available and new technology driving down equipment prices, it's past time that Florida joined the rest of the nation in diversifying its energy market with cleaner and more sustainable sources.


 CLAY BENNETT  |  Chattanooga Times Free Press
  2. A view of the downtown St. Petersburg skyline and waterfront from over Tampa Bay.
    The news that the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation wants to change its name to include “Tampa Bay” has been met with resistance.
  3. Catherine Rampell, Washington Post columnist.
    Allegations of political cowardice can seem rich coming from candidates unwilling to acknowledge the obvious truths about things such as higher taxes. | Catherine Rampell
  4. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, former Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., raise their hands to speak during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
  5. Yesterday• Opinion
    Letters to the Editor Graphic TARA MCCARTY  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Saturday’s letters to the editor
  6. Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart are surrounded by blue green algae in June 2016. [The Palm Beach Post]
    The Legislature should step up and stop pollution at its source, write Howard Simon and John Cassani.
  7. It’s not easy for case managers or police to deal with violent, uncooperative teens, the columnists write.
  8. Brian Dean REBECCA ADLER ROTENBERG  |  File photo
    Let’s make our standards better, not throw them out, says a math specialist.
  9. Traffic backs up between the Clearwater Memorial Causeway Bridge and Clearwater Beach. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Carbon dioxide emissions are up by more than half in just 30 years. Where is our mass transit?
  10. Eugene Robinson
    Impeachment is no longer optional. | Eugene Robinson