Friday, November 19, 2010

Floridians Seeing the Light but Only Partial Funding on Solar Power

During the special session last Tuesday the Legislature provided funding for energy efficiency and solar power rebates.  The money is coming from the federal stimulus program but lawmakers held off on approving the payments until they could hold a special session.

The funding is not complete: Only HVAC rebates applied for during a two week period – August 31 to Sept 14 - qualify for efficient heating and air conditioning rebates totaling $2,467,244, and the remaining $28,902,623 will be applied to backlogged solar power rebates amounting to $52 million. The rebate will cover about 55% of the amount solar purchaser expected, but it is still a significant figure. (See this Gainesville Sun Article for further details on the limits of the rebates.)

Floridians want solar energy.   Florida TaxWatch, a non-partisan, non-profit fiscal watchdog organization has just released the results of a survey  that shows how popular renewable energy is.  An impressive 89% of respondents agreed that “Investing in renewable energy is important to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make our nation more secure.” And 84% agreed that “Investing in renewable energy is important to create jobs for Floridians and improve the state’s economy.”
The survey also reveals that solar energy is the most popular at 87% favorable – 5% unfavorable while fossil fuels fare much worse in public opinion with 47% in favor and 25% opposed.

In addition, TaxWatch released “Global and National Solar Market Outlook” last July.  The report compares and contrasts the investment and progress in solar power made by America with the rest of the world, and by Florida with the rest of the states.  Other countries, especially Germany, Spain, and Japan, are far outpacing the US in photovoltaics.  And Florida, despite its abundant sunshine, lags far behind California which has 67% of the US PV capacity.  Florida doesn’t even reach 1% of grid connected PV capacity.

Solar and other renewable energy sources are also a great source of new good-paying jobs.  The TaxWatch report notes a 25% renewable standard would generate 50,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation, and administration by 2025.  And there are major federal incentives as well including manufacturing tax credits, $91 billion in loan guarantees, and $3.1 billion for state energy offices. 

All of these factors -  public approval, economic and  job growth, and energy security - should convince incoming Governor Scott and the Legislature to be more receptive to renewable energy.  Sierra Club Florida will make that case in Tallahassee.

David Cullen, Sierra Club Florida lobbyist