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Energy 2008

There’s little question that Florida is steering energy policy down a cleaner and greener path that could reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and curb greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, among other significant shifts, Gov. Charlie Crist set ambitious goals for reducing emissions; the state made unprecedented investments in alternative-energy research; and the Florida Public Service Commission denied a pair of coal-fired plants proposed by Florida Power & Light for Glades County, a decision that sent another major coal-plant proposal in Taylor County back to the drawing board.

EnviroFuels President Bradley Krohn
Litigation put EnviroFuels President Bradley Krohn’s plans for the state’s first ethanol plant on hold. He’s hoping to resolve his legal issues this year and move forward on three ethanol plants.
[Photo: Michael Heape]
Whether this turn will be enough to ensure both supply and diversification, however, remains to be seen. Despite Crist’s strong support for ethanol, for example, Florida’s biofuel pioneers have had a rough start.

Even with major successes in efficiency and conservation, demand for power in the state is likely to grow by almost 30% over the next decade. Energy experts say Florida relies too heavily on natural gas, which comprises 39% of capacity. The Florida Energy Commission will release its first major report to lawmakers in time for this year’s session. It’s expected to include a call for a targeted, statewide strategy on Florida’s energy-generation mix, in addition to recommendations on renewable energy, efficiency and conservation, and climate change. For example, the panel will urge greenhouse-gas-reduction goals but not as ambitious as Crist’s.

The Trends
? Plans for three new nuclear plants in Florida
? Stepped-up use of solar energy
? Increasing concerns about energy’s water use
? Changes to Florida’s energy policy
Sen. Mike Bennett of Bradenton, who predicts lawmakers will pass significant alternative-energy legislation this year, says all the declarations, reports and recommendations up to now are not bold enough. “It appears to me that they are doing ‘energy lite,’ ” he says of the Energy Commission’s report.

Other observers warn that the state shouldn’t become overreliant on renewables, which together make up less than 1% of capacity in Florida today. “People sometimes think of renewables as if they are magic — as if there are suddenly new technologies out there that we didn’t know about, and we can make all this energy that we didn’t know we could make,” says Alireza Haghighat, professor and chairman of the University of Florida’s nuclear engineering department.

“We do need different sources of energy, and we also need to be practical,” Haghighat says. “We need to be both green and responsible.”

Energy Sources

Water Shortage

As some environmental groups gear up to fight FP&L’s plans for two new nuke units at Turkey Point, they cite the plants’ enormous water consumption. Like much of Florida, Miami-Dade County spent part of last year in a water-shortage emergency. Water supply also is a concern for proposed ethanol plants.

Nuclear Power PlantMore Nuclear

The Florida Public Service Commission this year decides whether to approve three nuclear plants. Progress Energy Florida wants to build a plant in Levy County on the west-central coast; Florida Power & Light Co. wants to build two nuclear units at its Turkey Point generating complex in southern Miami-Dade County. The energy companies want to make nuclear power a larger slice of Florida’s energy pie as the state tries to steer away from coal and curb overreliance on natural gas. FPL’s project would add between 2,200 and 3,000 megawatts of capacity; Progress Energy’s, 1,100.

Going Green

» Solar:
Florida will become home to the largest single solar thermal plant in the world, part of a $2.4-billion investment by Florida Power & Light to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The Juno Beach-based company hasn’t yet settled on a site for the 300-megawatt facility but hopes to break ground later this year. Other elements of the investment include $400 million for a nationwide education program and $500 billion to build a “smart grid” that will encourage consumers to conserve. Spokesman Mayco Villafana says the company will build the first 10 megawatts of the facility and, if it meets expectations, go forward with the remainder of the project over the next three years, with the full 300 megawatts online in 2011.

Also in solar, look for a bill this session that would create true net metering for Floridians who want to make their own solar energy. Homeowners with solar voltaic cells would be able to sell excess power back to their utility.

» Ethanol:
Bradley Krohn, president of U.S. EnviroFuels, the Tampa-based company that wants to build multiple fuel ethanol plants throughout Florida, says he hopes 2008 will be a turn-around year. U.S. EnviroFuels planned to build the state’s first ethanol plant at Port Sutton, but litigation over the site put the project on hold for more than a year. Krohn says the parties are making “significant progress” on the litigation and that he expects a resolution early this year. Only at that point will the company be able to close on financing for the project. Also this year, look for U.S. EnviroFuels to announce two new ethanol plant projects, both inland, both based on biomass-to-ethanol technology rather than corn.

Later this year, Gov. Charlie Crist’s administration expects to propose a law requiring Florida vehicles to use fuel containing 10% ethanol. The measure would still have to be approved by Florida lawmakers.