Florida’s balanced approach meets today’s energy demands with an eye on tomorrow’s needs.
Florida’s business infrastructure is not only growing, it’s poised to become greener, too. In June 2008, Gov. Charlie Crist, a long-time advocate of green initiatives and alternative fuels, put his signature on Florida’s most progressive energy bill to date, which includes new energy-efficient building codes, renewable energy standards and a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Charlie Crist has fired the starting gun,” says Jerry Karnas, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Florida Climate Project and a member of the Governor’s Action Team on Energy and Climate Change, “because it’s time for Florida to get into the race. Crist is not only offering a moral pathway, but also a pathway to a new economy.”
Market forces, shifting demographics and a spirit of innovation are fueling a statewide infrastructure makeover, and green technologies play a vital role.
“Our balanced approach to meeting future energy needs uses a combination of resources, including energy efficiency, renewable energy and state-of-the-art power plants such as nuclear,” says Jeffrey Lyash, president and CEO of Progress Energy Florida, which has invested heavily in renewable initiatives such as solar, hydrogen, wind and biomass.
“We think biomass is especially promising,” he adds. “Since 2006, we have signed contracts to purchase the electrical output of three biomass power producers. We also consider nuclear to be a green energy source because it is carbon free and does not contribute to climate change.”
Energy sector investments across the board are guided, in part, by population growth. From 2000 to 2007, Florida’s population grew by about 2.4% annually. The University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research predicts that Florida’s population will grow by just 1.1% each year through 2010, then return to previous growth levels through 2020. Energy providers are taking these numbers into consideration and looking long term.
“We have experienced slower customer growth in 2007 and in the first quarter of 2008 than in previous years,” says John Ramil, Tampa Electric Company (TECO) Energy president and COO. TECO expects to return to a more normal growth pattern of about 2% by 2010 and, Ramil says, “to add 150 megawatts of generation per year and related transmission and distribution infrastructure.”
Likewise, Pensacola-based Gulf Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, expects demand to increase 2% to 3% per year. Says President and CEO Susan Story, “Economic downturns come and go, but we believe Florida’s diverse economy can address these challenges and come out even stronger.”
Florida is exploring a wide range of alternative energies: e-grass (biofuel), solar, nuclear and ocean turbines. [Photo by Forest and Kim Stars (USGS) top]