Clean Energy Roadshow Comes to Florida

Clean Energy Roadshow Comes to Florida

Clean Energy Roadshow, a 50-state tour to promote collaborative strategies for market development and job creation in energy efficiency and the clean energy economy, came to Punta Gorda last week to hear how Floridians are leveraging private capital to make such improvements here. The Roadshow was hosted by Gil Sperling with the U.S. Department of Energy's (USDOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.


There was a consensus among stakeholders attending the Roadshow that Florida's commercial buildings, universally covered with flat roofs baking in the sun, would provide ideal locations for solar panels. Owners of these buildings should be able to sell electricity they generate back to their tenants, but ... that common sense approach is now prohibited by state law.

Officials from host Charlotte County expressed pride in their project to improve the energy efficiency of 1000 businesses and 4000 homes in an 1100 acre, largely treeless area originally developed in the 1960's. Their plan is to transform the community into a mixed use, reforested district with trails so residents can shop without leaving their neighborhood, and greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced.

Charlotte Co. leaders bragged they have more sunshine than anywhere else in Florida, but they also expressed frustration that their plan to place a 75-megawatt photovoltaic solar array on an small sod field at Babcock Ranch is being blocked by a combination of state politics and outdated utility regulations.

USDOE's Sperling called on Florida stakeholders to create an on-going workgroup to continue to pursue solutions to the issues raised in the stakeholder session.

Sierra Club's position:To achieve our global warming reduction goals and economic recovery, we must address these barriers and dramatically ramp up private and public investment in rebuilding America's old and inefficient buildings.

Buildings contribute 40 percent of U.S. global warming pollution. Working together, we can retrofit the estimated 130 million energy inefficient homes in the U.S. to improve their use of energy through measures such as sealing windows and installing insulation. This will create good, green jobs in our communities, reduce the average family's energy bill by $440-660 a year, and help curb global warming pollution. Key barriers to making home retrofits affordable and accessible for everyone include up-front costs to consumers, lack of access to accurate information and a well-trained, qualified workforce.

So far federal programs have weatherized 200,000 homes, but we need do it with 10 million homes and commercial buildings. The key is leveraging private dollars instead of just federal subsidies.

Florida's one of 23 states without a goal for moving to clean energy, but passage of U.S. Senate bill S.3813, the Renewable Electricity Promotion Act, would create a national goal of 15% renewable production by 2020, with a 5% credit for increased efficiency. Passage is possible in the "lame duck" session starting Nov. 15, and Florida's U.S. Senator George LeMieux, is one of 3 key swing votes in the Senate.

—Phil Compton, Field Organizer, Sierra Club Florida Regional Office