Howwe establish energy policy will go a long way to helping Florida andour nation get out of these tough economic times. State and nationalstandards requiring electric utilities to generate a modest amount ofclean, renewable energy will be an important step. We can unleash a newfrontier centered on smart grid technology, energy efficiency andrenewable energy starting right here in Florida. A diverse energymarket based on these technologies will protect families from anover-reliance on dirty energy sources that are price-volatile, such asnatural gas, and expensive, such as nuclear reactors.
Pricesfor natural gas have spiked unpredictably over the last few years andthe estimate to construct nuclear reactors has increased threefoldsince 2006. Indeed, Progress Energy’s high nuclear cost ($17 billion)has already lead to sharp rate increases for Progress customers — $6per month — even before construction begins. The company will bebilling customers for close to 10 years before the first electron isever produced from its nuclear reactors. Rates are projected toincrease more than $40 per month in 2017 to cover construction costs.
Butwhile this is happening, renewable power prices are coming down. Forexample, biopower produced from forest and agriculture waste materialshas far less capital cost and can be brought on line faster and insmaller blocks than the massive nuclear plants that tend to overshootdemand and lock in high costs for utility bill payers.
Floridahas the opportunity to jump into the growing solar market that allowscustomers to take advantage of a power source that is experiencingdeclining cost, tremendous employment opportunities and will providetrue clean energy for our children and grandchildren.
Thesimple fact is that big power companies such as Progress want tomaintain big profits for their shareholders at ratepayer expense, andthe best way to do that is by building big, expensive plants that getinto the base rate and garner a good rate of return for the company’sshareholders.
Policies that promote smallerdistributed renewable generation, like solar and bioenergy, will allowmore players into the market, create jobs and provide more competitionto the big power companies that force them to be more innovative. Andthat’s exactly what the Florida economy, workers and utility customersneed now.