March 17, 2012

Florida House passes energy bill

After three years attempting to pass a renewable-energy package, the Florida House overwhelming backed the energy plan that has been ushered through the Capitol by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

HB 7117, which passed 113-1 with bipartisan support on Monday, is designed to expand renewable-energy production tax credits, allow local governments to use discretionary sales tax revenue to assist homeowners who make energy-efficiency improvements, and reduce the state’s dependence on natural gas that is pumped into Florida along two pipelines from the Gulf Coast. 

“Florida’s House of Representatives sent a clear message today that Florida is ready to diversify its energy portfolio, expand energy production and create much-needed jobs for Floridians,” Putnam said. 

The commissioner commended Reps. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, and Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, for their leadership.

“This legislation supports responsible renewable-energy technologies and provides a pathway for job creation and is a huge step in the right direction in providing power generation for future Floridians,” said Plakon, the bill's sponsor. “I am grateful for the support this bill has received from Republicans and Democrats as well as the dedicated efforts of Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putman.”

The Senate must still approve its own version, SB 2094, sponsored by Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.

The energy plans are less expansive than efforts in the last three years that have failed to advance through the Legislature, being described as overambitious.  

Last year, legislators broke up the Energy and Climate Commission, created under Gov. Charlie Crist, and shifted the responsibilities to Putnam's department. 

Putnam introduced his plan to shift the state’s portfolio away from its dependency on natural gas by advancing renewable-energy production, encouraging home-grown technologies and promoting greater energy efficiency.

Florida Power & Light, as an example, relies on natural gas for 60-to-65 percent of its current energy production, and last year estimated the portfolio would expand to 76 percent natural gas after the completion of its projects. 

Supporters of the energy bills have said that failure to have a better fuel mix could expose Floridians to rate increases in the future because of volatility in the marketplace.

Highlights of the House energy plan include: 

  • Removing regulatory barriers that prevent the expansion of renewable-energy opportunities in the state
  • Reviving tax credits for investments into renewable-energy technology and production.
  • Allowing a municipality to collect special assessments to pay the additional costs to purchase renewable energy.


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