How to brighten Florida’s energy future

Kevin Doyle, Your Turn
Published 2:00 p.m. ET Jan. 9, 2018

One in seven in Florida struggle to warm and cool their homes. More than 3 million live in poverty, or 14.7 percent of the population, according to federal estimates.

With per-capita energy spending nearly $2,800 per person statewide for energy, the poorest households shell out as much as 50 percent of their take-home pay on heating, air conditioning and electricity. Economists say that percentage should be six percent, at most.

We can help by paying attention to how much these families – and ours – are unnecessarily paying.

Energy affects everyone. We use gas to drive the kids to school, natural gas to cook and heat our homes, and electricity to watch movies, charge our phones and adjust the thermostat.

The more energy we have, the lower prices will be.

And, despite today’s hyper-charged politics, energy impacts all of us, regardless of political affiliation.  As such, energy must be something we all agree on.

But, for many, this is not the case. Some suggest we must choose between a green and prosperous Florida.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, division is making is pay more. We can have it all – affordable energy and a vibrant environment.

What’s stopping us? 

Florida utilities import energy from other states to meet the demand of a surging population, which has grown more than 9.8 percent this decade. We became the third-most populous state in 2014, and our 20.6 million head-count should grow to 29 million by 2040, according to Census data and the University of Florida.

That’s why the state’s need for electricity will surge by the equivalent of 7.5 million additional homes by 2035, according to data from the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council.

With that surge comes pressure toward higher and higher energy prices. Florida consumed the third-most energy among states in 2016. Yet, we produce the equivalent of less than 12.8 percent of the power we burn, according to data.

This is largely the result of public policy choices that, while well-intentioned, have left us reliant on other states and countries to fuel us. The good news is we have the means to diversify our resources.

Innovation, improvements in technology, regulation and technique allow us to develop, deliver and use petroleum-based fuels responsibly and safer than ever. Florida also has ample room to grow its on-shore renewables, improve its economy and create jobs.

But power plants here generate only 70,000 megawatts of utility-scale electricity from solar, wind and geothermal – enough to run somewhere between only 58 and 116 homes.

Biomass – primarily waste products from agriculture, wood, even food – creates 384,000 megawatts, enough to power up to 640 households, according to data.

That means encouraging the growth of all forms of energy, including oil and natural gas, will only help to keeps prices reasonable, supply available and the environment clean.

This year, let’s bring everyone to the table to find common-sense ways to create energy security and push forward with cutting-edge innovations that’ll protect the environment and lower energy costs.

Kevin Doyle is the executive director for Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida.

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