April 24, 2014

Corner Office

Finding the Gold in Green

Lynda Keever | 8/1/2008
Lynda Keever
Lynda Keever, Publisher
“Greening” the business community and stimulating economic development in clean technologies was the focus of the “Serve to Preserve Florida Summit on Global Climate Change” in June.

The two-day summit brought together more than 700 industry leaders, international policy-makers, academics, scientists, environmentalists and businesspeople. I heard it described as “a gathering of those with money and those who need it.”

There were more than 50 booths in the exhibition hall promoting everything from recycling to new methods of increasing fuel efficiency to green building materials. I took the opportunity to drive GM’s hydrogen car and also got a peek at one of the greenest cars in the world, a Ford hybrid that Progress Energy is testing.

An impressive lineup of speakers and presenters included Prince Charles of Great Britain who welcomed attendees by video. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wrapped up the summit on a powerful note, calling California and Florida “bicoastal leaders in fighting global warming.”

What struck me most was that the summit wasn’t just a “feel-good” get-together. Experts from both the public and private sectors talked about finding solutions and reported on projects that are already producing economic, health and environmental benefits for Floridians. Reports on the return on investment from research activities at our state universities were particularly impressive.

Gov. Charlie Crist said that the summit “is truly reaffirming my belief that there is gold in green.” Since July 2007, when Crist signed executive orders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency and remove market barriers for renewable energy technologies, our state has stepped onto the world stage as a major marketplace for advanced energy technologies.

On the summit’s opening day, Crist signed the Energy, Climate Change and Economic Security Act of 2008 — an energy and economic development package aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging investment in alternative and renewable energy technologies.

The legislation has already facilitated some green initiatives at Florida power companies.

Florida Power and Light is seeking approval to build three solar power plants across the state that will prevent the release of nearly 3.5 million tons of greenhouses gases over the life of the projects — the equivalent of removing 25,000 cars from the road. And Gulf Power Co. is now offering an incentive for customers who install solar thermal water heaters, including a financing program through SunTrust Bank as well as state and company rebates.

The challenge — and the opportunity — before us is building economic benefit from these new programs and incentives.

Crist’s top energy official, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Sole, has said that it could take time for these ambitious energy goals to result in economic development. “In my view, the appropriate role of public policy is to establish the playing field and the rules of the game and then to allow markets the freedom to work effectively toward the ends we’re trying to achieve.”

There is no segment of the public or private sector that isn’t touched by these issues or that can’t take advantage of the opportunities. I encourage you to learn as much as you can about how your company or organization can make an impact. We all stand to benefit as Florida transforms its energy marketplace and focuses on turning green into gold.

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