Politics & Government

Florida's green energy plans fail to produce

For a year, while the green movement was at its height, Florida environmentalists, new solar companies, utility lobbyists and state regulators spent thousands of hours trying to determine how much of the state's power supply should come from renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

They did it because the Legislature in 2008 ordered them to do it. After sifting through thousands of pages of documents and sitting in lengthy workshops, the Public Service Commission sent its recommendations to the 2009 Legislature. A renewable-energy bill passed the Senate but died in the House. The result: A year of work wasted.

Among the major victims: The ballyhooed Babcock Ranch project, which is trying to become the first solar-powered city in the world, and thousands of construction workers who would have been hired to build new power plants.

"We are extremely disappointed," said Stephen Smith, head of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "The people of Florida should feel cheated by their legislative leadership."

In the final days of the Legislature, the drama became intense. Gov. Charlie Crist at one point visited the House to plead for a renewable standard. When that failed, a major renewable-energy producer, Florida Crystals, turned against Florida Power & Light, which was trying to craft its own solar deal. That deal died.

The renewable saga began in July 2007 when Crist asked the Public Service Commission to develop rules to make power companies produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewables to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. At least 25 states already have such standards.

The PSC held four workshops in 2007 attended by major environmentalists and utility representatives.

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