Climate change is causing rising temperatures leading to extreme weather damages, food shortages and air pollution. One solution is using renewable energy that can have economic, health and climate benefits.
A new bill has been proposed by Democratic lawmakers that would require Florida to generate its electricity through renewable energy. Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, filed the proposal in the House (HB 81), and Sen. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, filed the Senate version (SB 366).
The bills will be under consideration during the 2022 legislative session beginning in January. Through this bill, the Office of Energy within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Florida will consult with state agencies, state colleges and universities, public utilities, and other entities to develop a plan to have the state only using renewable energy.
Other characteristics of the bill include prohibiting drilling for oil, gas or other petroleum products and reducing statewide net zero carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050. The plan also includes interim goals such as Florida reaching 50% renewable energy by 2030.
There are numerous benefits to transferring to renewable energy such as reducing air pollution, facilitating job creation in the clean energy industry, and contributing to the operation of the energy grid. The energy grid is a system of interconnected networks in which electricity can be delivered to commercial areas, people’s homes, electric vehicles and more.
Katie Moffitt, an associate for the 100% Renewable Campaign for Environmental America, told the Florida Political Review, “The technology that goes along with renewable energy advances the energy grid’s reliability making it more flexible, smarter and responsive to weather events.”
The energy grid is a network of power plants, substations, transformers, wires, sensors and poles that carry electricity to buildings. Having an effective grid ensures that there is a reliable energy source for consumers. The Department of Energy also said that a new grid must be developed to be smarter and more flexible with a focus on using renewable energy.
Rep. Eskamni told Florida Political Review that modernizing the energy grid is important so that Florida can withstand cyberattacks or system faults. This can prevent a loss of energy if something happens to one of the power plants.
If the bill passes, there is an opportunity for new jobs. Construction workers, engineers and assembly line workers are some of the job roles that will need to be filled to meet the goals the bill sets forth.
According to the Clean Jobs America report by E2, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on the economy and environmental policy, clean energy is the largest job creator in America’s energy sector. Florida is one of the country’s leaders for clean energy jobs.
President Biden proposed the American Jobs Plan in which creating a renewed electric grid and creating new jobs in renewable energy is a part of the plan. The plan will put people to work capping orphan oil and gas wells and laying transmission lines.
Eskamani believes that this plan coincides with the plan proposed by her and Sen. Berman. The plan by the Biden administration will amplify and expedite the work done by this bill.
Renewable energy can also have lower levelized costs than fossil fuels. The levelized cost of energy measures the total cost of building and operating a facility. In an analysis done by Lazard, a financial advisory firm, wind and solar power plants were proven to have lower prices than natural gas, coal and nuclear power plants. Lower prices of maintaining renewable energy facilities can lead to regulators reducing consumer costs and the creation of more facilities to increase energy capacity.
According to Moffitt, clean energy is more affordable than ever, and solar is expected to be among the cheapest power sources by 2050. As renewable energy continues to grow, it will be able to become more cost-effective and accessible to the average consumer.
The plan created by the Department of Energy would include details about how this transition to renewable energy will be funded. At the federal level, there are tax credits to subsidize the transition and programs in which some people are eligible for bank loans.
Eskamani explained the bill would task the Department of Energy with creating incentives for businesses and people to switch to renewable energy, with punishments if they do not, or a mix of both.
If the bill passes, it will create a coalition of stakeholders including an environmental justice voice to make sure the plan is intentional. “We want to make sure this is a transition that everyone benefits from, not just a few,” Eskamani said.
According to Moffitt, America can use wind and solar energy to power the nation 78 times over.
“We have abundant clean energy from the sun and the wind, and we should use it,” she said.
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Featured Image: Windmills at a windmill farm. Unmodified photo from Andreas Klinke Johannsen used under a Creative Commons License. (https://bit.ly/3DOQk2P)