‘Baby step’ energy bill goes to Gov. Scott

in Uncategorized by

With the House sponsor describing it as “somewhere between a baby step and a modest step,” lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a bill aimed at increasing the use of renewable energy, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

The bill (HB 7117) primarily offers tax credits and exemptions to help boost production and distribution of such things as renewable fuels. Following Senate approval Thursday, the House voted 116-2 on Friday to send it to Gov. Rick Scott.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who has spearheaded the renewable-energy issue, praised lawmakers for passing the bill.

“With overwhelming support in both chambers, the Legislature is sending a clear message that Florida is focused on its future,” Putnam said in a prepared statement. “We’re putting Florida’s energy policy back on the right track, positioning Florida to secure a stable, reliable and diverse supply of energy.”

House members said they wanted to take additional steps but were limited by the Senate. House sponsor Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, made the reference to a “baby step” and a “modest step” and quoted the Rolling Stones in urging approval of the bill.

“You don’t always get what you want,” Plakon said. “But you get what you need.”

House members wanted to create a revised process for the Public Service Commission to review renewable energy projects less than 75 megawatts. The process would have included several criteria for determining whether the projects were in the “public interest.”

Utilities would have been able to recoup costs from customers if projects were found to be in the public interest. Though the proposal was not included in the final version of the bill, Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, said lawmakers need to create a “pathway” for the development of the relatively small projects less than 75 megawatts.

Senators repeatedly said they did not want to approve anything that could lead to higher utility rates. But House members Friday said the part of the bill dealing with projects less than 75 megawatts would not raise rates.

“There was no evidence whatsoever the bill would raise rates,” said Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.

While the final version of the bill might be modest, supporters said the state needs to move forward with increasing renewable energy as a way to diversify the state’s fuels and electric generation. The effort also could help industries such as agriculture, with homegrown crops potentially used in producing fuels.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.