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NextGen Climate to boost grassroots clean energy efforts in Florida

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In 2014, NextGen Climate, well-heeled environmental activist Tom Steyer‘s political action committee, spent an estimated $12 million in Florida to try to oust Rick Scott as Governor.

Scott defeated Democrat Charlie Crist in a closely fought contest.

Last fall, the super PAC announced that they would launch a “seven-figure” television ad campaign, calling on presidential candidates and other political leaders to commit to moving the country to 50 percent clean energy by 2030. At the same time they announced the launch of a six-figure digital campaign urging voters to pressure candidates and elected officials to lay out more aggressive climate plan.

Jackie Lee, NextGen Climate’s Florida director, said Thursday that for now anyway, the organization is focused on “grassroots” efforts to persuade elected officials and the public towards the “50 x 30” goal.

“It’s built upon making sure that clean energy is in the fray, in the conversation, at the presidential level, but that it comes from the bottom,” she said after joining Tampa Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor at an event in South Tampa. “We’ve been working on campuses, with the faith community and the business community to have leaders from their communities talk to leaders and elected officials to get the conversation going.”

Lee said she wasn’t sure what type of financial amounts that NextGen will commit to in the 2016 cycle in Florida. “I can’t say it’s a big investment or not a big investment, at least for the general (election).” She suggested that could change around the time that Florida’s presidential primary takes place in mid-March.

Last week Hillary Clinton signed NextGen Climate’s “50 x 30” pledge, which goes slightly farther than her campaign’s own previously released climate plan.  Her plan calls for renewable energy generation to account for 16 percent of all energy generation by 2027.

Former Maryland Governor and Democratic presidential Martin O’Malley was the first candidate to sign the NextGen pledge, in September.

Bernie Sanders has not signed the pledge. He has released an energy plan calling for a 100 percent “clean energy” system that doesn’t list a deadline.

Lee was one of several people involved with clean energy (which also included Dr. Yogi Goswami from the USF Clean Energy Center, Albert Rodriguez from ATI Energia, Karyn Sbar from Soleil Design Build and Sigurd Brocks with the Erwin Technical Center Program Manager for Solar Photovoltaics) who met with Castor to talk about formulating a plan to provide for businesses and consumers to educate them about them about cutting edge energy efficiency technologies.

Saying that Florida is well behind the rest of the nation when it comes to renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, Castor declared that a locally sustained energy was essential, since Tallahassee lawmakers don’t seem interested  “There are too many innovative things happening across the country and in this community, so we have come together to try to chart out some local initiatives to empower our neighbors and businesses to become more efficient in the way they design their buildings and do some retrofitting,” she said.

Castor also mentioned distributing information on how people can “weatherize” their homes, as well as use smart meters to control their thermostat via a smart phone app as other tools that can be utilized.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

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