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The second-largest producer of electricity in the nation and the third-largest electricity consumer, Florida is no stranger to dealing with energy issues. Relying on a variety of sources for power generation — from nonrenewable resources, like coal, to renewable resources, like solar — Florida has many choices to make about how it will continue to provide power going forward. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “the state does not produce enough electricity to meet its power needs, and electricity demand is expected to increase as the state’s population continues to grow.”

To deal with dwindling nonrenewable resources and the threat of climate change, experts like Stephen Mulkey, a lecturer at the University of Florida who has been studying the climate for over 30 years, say that Florida needs to think critically about energy efficiency and reducing demand, something that is not just done “by turning off the bathroom light when you walk out the door.”

“This is done automatically by sophisticated grid management and by computer systems,” Mulkey said. “That reduction in demand is well within our reach, and it is just a matter of re-engineering the Florida grid.”

Multiple bills that are related to energy issues are being considered during this year’s state legislative session, addressing topics like rooftop solar power, electric vehicles, floating solar facilities, solid-waste-to-energy and more.

Here’s what this year’s energy legislation is all about:

Renewable Energy Generation & Net Metering

rooftop solarOne bill proposed this session would authorize certain entities to prohibit the installation of rooftop solar collectors as well as redesign and introduce new net metering rules. SB 1024, proposed by Florida State Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R), would also deal with subsidization of renewable energy by public utilities and details instances where solar collectors could not be prohibited. HB 741, a similar bill proposed by Florida State Rep. Lawrence McClure (R), would also redesign net metering.

Under current law, homeowners who have solar panels on their property can sell excess energy that they generate back to utility companies. The rate at which they can sell it back is the same retail rate utilities charge other customers for power, often referred to as net metering. These bills would lower the rate utilities would have to pay to purchase excess solar power.

A small portion of Floridians’ utility bills go toward offsetting what utility companies pay residential solar producers for their power, but some are afraid the portion could increase as the solar industry grows. According to Florida Politics, McClure hopes his bill will “intervene before solar starts shifting significant costs onto the general public.”

However, the two bills have faced a lot of controversy in Florida, with critics saying it would “crush solar choice” for residents and that “crippling solar rooftop adoption eliminates a critical tool in reaching renewable energy and sustainability targets and in the transition to a cleaner energy future.”

Other opponents include local solar companies, homeowners, clean energy advocates and political leaders. In addition, the Miami Herald discovered that Florida Power and Light sent a document to legislators that nearly matches the official bill text.

According to Mulkey, the bill would also impose an additional fee on people that have solar panels on their home so that they can support the grid infrastructure.

“That would make a lot of sense if the grid infrastructure were being modernized, but it’s not,” he said. “If you think about the Sunshine State, why shouldn’t every citizen who has a rooftop have the right to install photovoltaic to offset the cost of their utilities? The only reason is to maximize the revenue stream for these investor-owned utilities.”

UPDATE: SB 1024 was laid on the table, meaning it was set aside and died at the end of the session — however, its contents were substituted by CS/CS/HB 741, which was enrolled, meaning it has been approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor for approval.

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Electric Vehicle Bills

electric vehiclesElectric vehicles are another issue that has been discussed extensively in Florida, and several bills this session deal with it.

Dory Larsen works for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which is focused on clean transportation, decarbonizing energy sectors and transitioning transportation systems to electric. She says that there are many misconceptions about electric vehicles. People think they are much more expensive than traditional vehicles and not practical, but she noted that the average electric vehicle can go over 250 miles on one charge.

“When you look at total cost of ownership, they’re cheaper to own and have emissions benefits,” Larsen said. “So, when you put it all together, we really feel that it’s a win-win for Floridians.”

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Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

One bill proposed this session, titled “Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure,” would establish the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Grant Program, specify how its funds are used and revise a Department of Transporation goal related to mobility.

SB 918, introduced by Florida State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R), would also require the Department of Transportation to seek federal approval for issuing permits to accommodate the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in highways and right-of-ways. Similar bills were proposed last year, but they died in committee.

According to Larsen, Florida has an advantage in that it has direct sales, meaning consumers can purchase an electric vehicle without going through a dealership. Florida is number two in the nation in terms of EV sales.

“We’re in this moment in Florida EV sales, where it’s really been, you know, just exploding,” Larsen said. “We’re really just at this exciting time, and good policies that are going to support that continued growth in the stock market are really important.”

Larsen said part of the challenge is getting Floridians on board with this relatively new concept.

“We certainly need more to make sure that drivers feel confident in being able to make, you know, long-distance trips,” she said. “We’re wanting to see, and advocating for, more infrastructure.”

Mulkey notes that in order to deal with the threat of climate change, Florida needs to electrify its transportation system and move most of its energy production to photovoltaic as fast as possible.

“In order to do both of those things, we’ve got to modernize our grid and we’ve got to use sophisticated grid management,” Mulkey said. “Those tools are out there.”

UPDATE: SB 918 died in Transportation.

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Energy (Leasing)

Two other similar bills proposed this session, both titled “Energy,” would revise the selection criteria for purchasing or leasing vehicles for state agency, college or university, or certain local government fleets and require the Department of Management Services to rank certain vehicles based on the lowest lifetime ownership costs over a specified number of years and to publish the rankings to the department’s website.

SB 954, introduced by the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committees and Florida State Sen. Jason Brodeur (R), and HB 1139, introduced by the Government Operations Subcommittee and Florida State Rep. Brad Drake (R), would also require the department to make recommendations to state agencies and local governments relating to the procurement and integration of electric vehicles.

“That bill would be helpful in terms of allowing more electric vehicles to be procured for all of the fleets across Florida,” Larsen said.

She said the bill might save taxpayer dollars because EV has a lower total cost of ownership than traditional vehicles leased by these entities.

“We’re excited that they’re taking a look at this, and hopefully this will go through,” she said.

UPDATE: SB 954 died on Calendar; HB 1139 died in State Administration & Technology Appropriations Subcommittee.

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Fees/Electric Vehicles & Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

A bill this session, titled “Fees/Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles,” would impose additional annual flat fees on electric vehicles and impose a license tax and an additional annual flat fee on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

SB 908, introduced by Florida State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R), would also allow residents to biennially renew vehicle registrations for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and provide for the distribution of proceeds from the additional fees.

“We recognize that we’re early in the stages of electric vehicles,” Brandes told TESI in 2021. “And while we want to encourage it, we also want to recognize that we need to account for it (financially).”

However, Larsen said she questions whether the bill will be passed as the same thing has been sponsored year after year with no success.

“I don’t think that it’s going to really get any traction,” she said.

UPDATE: SB 908 died in Transportation.

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Electric Vehicle Transportation Electrification Plan

Similar bills proposed in the House and Senate, titled “Electric Vehicle Transporation Electrification Plan,” would require the Public Service Commission to adopt rules for an electric vehicle transportation electrification plan.

SB 920, introduced by Florida State Sen. Keith Perry (R), and HB 737, introduced by the Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee and Florida State Rep. David Borrero (R), would also authorize entities that provide electric vehicle charging stations to the public to intervene and participate in commission proceedings involving rates, terms or conditions of service for offering electric vehicle charging.

According to the House bill’s staff analysis, “As advancements in EV technology continue, EV manufacturing increases, and EV prices become more accessible, representatives in both government and the private sector suggest that successful adoption of EV use is heavily dependent on the accessibility of charging stations.”

UPDATE: SB 920 died in Transportation.

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Floating Solar Facilities

floating solar facilityAdditional bills proposed this session would promote the expanded use of floating solar facilities. SB 1338, proposed by Florida State Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr. (R), and HB 1411, proposed by Florida State Rep. Bryan Avila (R), would also require local governments and the Office of Energy within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to create a regulatory framework for these facilities.

According to Mulkey, floating solar facilities are arrays of utility-grade solar photovoltaics that are floating on a large body of water. Oftentimes, these facilities are only permitted on manmade waterbodies.

These arrays could potentially generate electricity while floating “atop wastewater treatment ponds, abandoned lime rock quarries and other manmade water storage reservoirs.” Mulkey notes that using these facilities requires a relatively still body of water for them to function effectively.

Avila, who proposed the bill, told Florida Politics, “Florida has been a leader in encouraging the use of, and promoting the development of, renewable energy. I am proud to introduce legislation that intends to continue to build on our efforts to harness energy throughout Florida in a new and innovative way.”

UPDATE: SB 1338 was laid on table, meaning it was set aside and died at the end of the session — however, its contents were substituted by CS/CS/HB 1411, which was enrolled, meaning it has been approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor for approval.

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Energy Security and Disaster Resilience Pilot Program

Scientists say climate change will lead to more intense storms, which often lead to power outages. While power outages can be minor inconveniences for some, for others they can lead to dire situations. For example, power outages from Hurricane Irma in 2017 led to a 25% increase in heat-related deaths in Florida’s nursing homes.

Two identical bills, HB 767, introduced by Florida State Rep. Joy Goff-Marcil (D) and SB 686, introduced by Florida State Rep. Janet Cruz (D), would develop an energy security and disaster resilience pilot program within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

According to the bill text, the purpose of the program is to:

  • Encourage the implementation of and demonstrate the effectiveness of distributed energy generation and energy storage technologies to provide for the energy needs of critical disaster resilience facilities (like hospitals, fire stations, drinking water facilities, etc.) during a natural disaster or a declared state of emergency.
  • Study and assess the effectiveness of grants for distributed energy generation and energy storage technologies to improve the security of the state’s energy resources and enhance preparedness and resilience statewide for a natural disaster or a declared state of emergency.

Mulkey said more programs that focus on disaster risk reduction are going to be crucial in Florida in the coming years.

“We need major programs that have a couple of billion dollars behind them, otherwise we’re going to have a lot of people out on the coasts that are going to really suffer within the coming 10 to 20 years,” he said.

UPDATE: HB 767 died in Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee; SB 686 died in Regulated Industries.

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Municipal Solid Waste-to-Energy Program

solid wasteTwo similar bills would provide financial assistance to municipalities to go toward solid waste-to-energy programs. SB 1764, introduced by the Appropriations Committee and Florida State Sen. Ben Albritton (R) and HB 1419, introduced by the Appropriations Committee and Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee and Florida State Rep. Amber Mariano (R), aim to incentivize the production and sale of energy from municipal solid waste-to-energy facilities while also reducing the amount of waste that would otherwise be disposed of in a landfill.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “waste-to-energy plants burn municipal solid waste (MSW), often called garbage or trash, to produce steam in a boiler that is used to generate electricity.”

For every 100 pounds of garbage produced in the U.S., 85 pounds can be used to generate electricity.

“Waste-to-energy plants reduce 2,000 pounds of garbage to ash weighing about 300 pounds to 600 pounds, and they reduce the volume of waste by about 87%,” reads the EIA’s website.

But Mulkey is skeptical of this kind of energy harnessing.

“Number one, it takes fossil energy to manage and process the solid waste because that’s what the grid is supplied with. Number two, when it’s burned, it emits fossil fuels.”

In Mulkey’s opinion, it would be better to harness the methane that is produced from landfills and turn that into energy.

“Once you allow things to settle in a landfill they start to rot so you may as well capture it early and use it to generate electricity.”

UPDATE: HB 1419 was laid on table, but SB 1764 was enrolled, meaning it has been approved by both the House and Senate and sent to the Governor for approval.

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State Renewable Energy Goals

Under current statutes, the term renewable energy refers to “electrical energy produced from a method that uses one or more of the following fuels or energy sources: hydrogen produced from sources other than fossil fuels, biomass, solar energy, geothermal energy, wind energy, ocean energy, and hydroelectric power.”

HB 81, introduced by Florida State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D), and SB 366, proposed by Florida State Rep. Lori Berman (D), propose these renewable energy goals for the state:

  • By 2040, 100% of the state’s electricity will be generated from 100% renewable sources.
  • By 2050, the state will have net-zero carbon emissions statewide.

The bill text states that pursuing renewable energy will have benefits that include displacing fossil fuel consumption within the state, reducing air pollution and toxic air contaminants, contributing to the safe and reliable operation of the electrical grid, and enhancing economic development and job creation in the clean energy industry.

Current laws also classify waste heat, an alternative energy resource made from sulfuric acid or pipeline-quality synthetic gas, as a form of renewable energy. This new bill would amend the definition of renewable energy to no longer categorize waste heat as a renewable source.

Similar bills were proposed in both 2021 and 2020, but they died in committees.

UPDATE: HB 81 died in Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee; SB 366 died in Environment and Natural Resources.

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Other related bills:

  • Resiliency Energy Environment Florida ProgramsSB 228 (Died on Calendar)
  • Energy SMART Schools – SB 1514 (Died in Education)
  • EnergyHB 491 and SB 548 (HB 491 died in Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee; SB 548 died in Regulated Industries)
  • Energy Equity Task Force – SB 1678 and HB 1285 (SB 1768 died in Appropriations; HB 1285 died in Tourism, Infrastructure & Energy Subcommittee.)
  • Department of Agriculture and Consumer ServicesHB 1289 and SB 1612 (HB 1289 died in Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee; SB 1612 died in Commerce and Tourism)

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