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Florida ranks as the second-largest producer and third-largest consumer of electricity in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Since 2003, most of Florida’s electricity generation has come from natural gas. The remainder is generated by renewable sources such as solar energy and non-renewable sources like coal, petroleum, and nuclear power. 

Here’s what this year’s energy bills are all about:   

Municipal Solid Waste-to-Energy Program

Florida’s nearly 22 million people (and counting) produce a lot of trash. According to a 2022 report by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about 51% of Florida’s waste was landfilled, 41% was recycled, and 8% was combusted, or burned. Municipal solid waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities burn garbage to produce steam in a boiler. The steam is used to power an electrical generator turbine.   

According to the DEP website, Florida has grown from having one small WTE plant in 1982 to 11 operating WTE facilities as of 2022. Florida has established the largest capacity to burn municipal solid waste of any state in the country. 

Two identical bills, SB 1606 and HB 1631, introduced by Florida State Sen. Vic Torres (D) and Florida State Rep. Daryl Campbell (D), would change the state agency responsible for managing the waste-to-energy program from DEP to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). The bills also revise the eligibility requirements for solid waste-to-energy plants to receive financial help, such as grants, incentives, and other avenues of funding.

diagram of a A mass-burn waste-to-energy plant.
A mass-burn waste-to-energy plant. Image from the Energy Information Administration adapted with permission from Deltaway Energy.

The legislation states that “the department may not provide grant funding for a solid waste-to-energy facility until an environmental justice evaluation of impacted low-income and historically marginalized residential areas has determined that the new facility will have a negligible impact on these communities and will not decrease the air quality or increase the particulate matter to a point that exceeds the minimum standards set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.”

Waste-to-energy facilities require proper upkeep and management. While not designated as hazardous waste, the ash produced as a byproduct of the burn needs to be disposed of in a lined landfill or a lined ash monofill, according to the DEP. 

According to the nonprofit organization Project Drawdown, waste-to-energy can “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing methane generation from landfills and releasing energy that can substitute for that generated by fossil fuels. However, it also can contaminate air, water, and land with toxic pollutants.”

The organization refers to this method as “a bridge technology before other preferable waste management options become fully possible.”

UPDATE: SB 1606 died in the Regulated Industries Committee; HB 1631 died in the Agriculture, Conservation and Resiliency Subcommittee.

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Wind Energy Facility Siting

SB 1718, introduced by Florida State Sen. Jay Collins (R), would prohibit the construction, operation, or expansion of wind energy facilities and offshore wind energy facilities in Florida. HB 1493, introduced by Florida State Rep. Thad Altman (R), would do the same.

The majority of Florida’s renewable electric energy, about 7% of its total electric energy generation, comes from solar energy and biomass. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Florida has no significant wind energy resources, onshore or offshore, and the state has no utility-scale wind-powered generating capacity.”

A 2016 report from the U.S. Renewable Energy Laboratory found that 80% of Florida’s wind energy can be found in waters deeper than 200 feet, where turbines would be built offshore on floating platforms. But opponents of these offshore farms, including Florida Republicans, say the facilities will block pristine ocean views, and can potentially harm birds and other wildlife.

“We don’t want offshore anything,” U.S. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R), a congresswoman who represents a district that includes Clearwater and St. Petersburg in Southwest Florida, told the Washington Post.

UPDATE: SB 1718 died in the Regulated Industries Committee; HB 1493 died in the Energy, Communications and Cybersecurity Subcommittee. 

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Bidirectional Charging by Electric Vehicles 

During hurricane season, it’s not uncommon for Floridians to experience power outages. These outages can be especially dangerous when the temperatures climb. A new bill is looking to evaluate the effectiveness of using bidirectional electric vehicles to provide mobile energy hotspots during emergencies.

Florida has the third-largest number of electric vehicles in the U.S., with 168,000 registrations in 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Bidirectional charging, a two-way energy stream, happens when power can be shared back and forth from one source to another. In terms of electric vehicles, power stored in your car could be returned to the grid and used to charge appliances or power your home.  

SB 1212, introduced by Florida State Sen. Tina Polsky (D), seeks to create a new group to evaluate the implementation of bidirectional electric vehicle chargers and equipment. The group would be a collaboration between the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Office of Energy, and the Public Service Commission.  

UPDATE: SB 1212 died in the Transportation Committee.

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Energy Resources 

Two large energy bills are making their way through various committees. HB 1645, introduced by Florida State Rep. Bobby Payne (R), and SB 1624, introduced by the Florida Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government, the Regulated Industries Committee, and Florida State Sen. Jay Collins (R), are looking to remove the term “Climate-friendly” from various statutes as well as any mention of reducing greenhouse gases.

For example, both bills would amend current state statutes that call for “Climate-friendly” public business. Currently, Florida law requires that before making a purchase, state agencies must first consult the Florida Climate-Friendly Preferred Products List to identify specific products and vendors that offer clear energy efficiency or environmental benefits.

The current law also requires that state agencies only contract with hotels or conference facilities that have received the “Green Lodging” designation from the Department of Environmental Protection for best practices in water, energy, and waste efficiency standards unless the responsible state agency head decides that no other viable alternative exists. The bills repeal this requirement.

The bills also remove several sections that recognize the importance of reducing greenhouse gases, like this sentence in section 286.29 of the Florida state statutes: “The Legislature recognizes the importance of leadership by state government in the area of energy efficiency and in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of state government operations.”

Additionally, the bills are calling for the storage of natural gas in facilities known as resiliency facilities, which the bill defines as “a facility owned and operated by a public utility for the purposes of assembling, creating, holding, securing, or deploying natural gas reserves for temporary use during a system outage or natural disaster.”

In terms of planning for one of these facilities, the bill states that “A local government may adopt an ordinance specifying buffer and landscaping requirements for resiliency facilities, provided such requirements do not exceed the requirements for similar uses involving the construction of other facilities that are permitted uses in commercial, industrial, and manufacturing land use categories and zoning districts.”

However, if passed, local governments would not be allowed to amend their comprehensive plans to outlaw these natural gas storage facilities.

“[The bills] walk us backward away from addressing our climate challenges. This really concerns me and should concern everybody,” said St. Augustine City Commissioner Barbara Blonder in an interview with Jacksonville Today.

“It’s [natural gas] a fossil fuel and so it does not get us closer to resiliency. It continues to contribute to our problems with sea level rise as a result. It [the legislation] removes all references to renewable energy and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and references to climate change. Those are all concerning because the previous language all included those and even described very clearly that the benefits of renewable energy accrued to the consumers of this state.”

During the first committee review, the Tampa Bay Times reported that Payne said the U.S. has spent billions on “a climate change initiative and ideology that is unfitting for our country,” without significant results.

“Our country would not be where it is today without fossil fuels,” he said.

UPDATE: SB 1624 was laid on the table, meaning it was set aside and died at the end of the session – however, its companion bill HB 1645 was enrolled, which means it was approved by the House and Senate and sent to Governor DeSantis for approval 

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Alternative Fuel Fleet Vehicle Rebates 

Rebate programs, or partial paybacks for the purchase of specific items, are one way governments can encourage a change in purchasing decisions.  

Currently, Florida has a rebate program for converting corporate and government fleet vehicles to be powered by natural gas fuel as opposed to diesel or gasoline. The current program provides a rebate of up to 50% for costs associated with converting the fuel operating system. 

SB 650, introduced by Florida State Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R) and its identical house bill, HB 803, introduced by Florida State Reps. Joe Casello (D) and Christine Hunschofsky (D) would expand the vehicle rebate program to include conversions to any alternative fuel, including hybrid and electric power sources. 

UPDATE: SB 650 died in the Fiscal Policy Committee; HB 803 died in the Energy, Communications and Cybersecurity Subcommittee. 

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State Renewable Energy Goals 

When fossil fuels like coal, oil, petroleum, and natural gas are burned to power our cars, homes, and businesses, carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide that we breathe out and plants absorb are natural parts of our planet’s carbon cycle. However, the excess carbon dioxide we emit from burning fossil fuels, called rampant carbon dioxide, disrupts the climate. 

As carbon dioxide builds up in our atmosphere, it acts as a heat-trapping blanket around the Earth, warming the atmosphere and oceans at rates not seen before in history.   

Two similar bills, HB 193, introduced by Florida State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D), and  SB 144, introduced by Florida State Sen. Lori Berman (D), aimed at putting an end to fossil fuel use in Florida have been introduced again in the 2024 session after similar bills died in the past four sessions. 

The proposed bills would forbid the exploration and drilling for, as well as the production of, oil, gas, and other petroleum products. The construction of structures related to petroleum would also be prohibited.  

The bills would also amend the definition of renewable energy. 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.” (It must be noted that although biomass is considered renewablescientists say it is far from being carbon neutral.) 

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. The legislation would amend the definition of renewable energy to no longer categorize waste heat as a renewable source.  

The bills would also require that by 2050, 100% of the electricity used in Florida will be generated from 100% renewable energy and that by 2051, the state will have net zero carbon emissions statewide.

“We can do mitigation efforts, but if we don’t do the work on the front end, we’re always going to be reactive and not proactive,” Berman told TESI in 2021. “It’s important that we start to address the problem.” 

UPDATE: SB 144 died in the Environment and Natural Resources Committee; HB 193 died in the Energy, Communications and Cybersecurity Subcommittee

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Other related bills

  • Energy Infrastructure Investment – SB 480 and HB 683 (B 480 died in Messages; HB 683 died in the Commerce Committee)