11 Jun 2015

Clean energy outpaces agricultural exports in Florida

Written by Jim Pierobon

If one were to ask what industry in Florida harbors the strongest growth prospects, it might be difficult to look beyond the state’s bountiful agricultural products. But energy users and policymakers in the Sunshine State — led by Gov. Rick Scott — should wake up to how fast clean energy is growing there and enable solar, efficiency and other clean energy companies to serve more customers.

The rationale keeps piling up with the latest coming today from Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), a trade group representing purveyors of energy efficiency products and services, solar and other renewable energy systems and electric and hybrid vehicles.

AEE is out with a new report that asserts these “advanced” energy industries currently account for an estimated $6.2 billion of annual revenue in Florida. That compares to an estimated $4.2 billion for the state’s agricultural exports.  The report was produced by Navigant Research, which has staked its reputation on, among things, quantifying the economic potential of solar energy growth.


This solar institute at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in Orlando could have a lot more research to do if state policymakers allowed users to source their own electricity. (Image courtesy of the Florida Solar Energy Center)

Not surprisingly, companies with a lot of upside potential in Florida are making the case for more clean energy there include EnerNOC (energy management), First Solar, Harvest Power (waste-to-energy), Johns Manville (insulation), Landis+Gyr (smart grid) and Philips Lighting.

The report, which you can find here, is a credible spotlight on how clean energy is grown and is poised to blossom. Perhaps the most compelling take-a-way is its assertion that Florida is third in the nation for rooftop solar energy potential. That compares to its #13 ranking for installed solar capacity at year-end 2014.

” Advanced energy companies are creating jobs and contributing to economic prosperity for Florida and our nation,” said Graham Richard, CEO of AEE. Florida has the potential to become a leader in advanced energy technologies and services, with significant benefits for customers and the state’s economy.”

report cover CROPPEDOther key take-a-ways:

• Florida has the fourth highest potential for commercial Combined Heat and Power which can be a very efficient use of fossil fuels for both.
• Florida has the sixth highest potential for biogas generation from landfills, wastewater treatment and organic waste.
• Of all the clean energy sectors, the building efficiency market is the largest valued currently at $2.9 billion. Power generation and transportation are next with estimated revenue of $1.2 billion and $1.1 billion respectively.

Drive Electric Florida forecasts an increase in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles in Southeast Florida alone from slightly more than 1,000 such vehicles to 74,000 by 2025.

I can’t help but ask at least one question which was not addressed by the study: what if the push to give Floridians the option of buying their power from someone other than their regulated utility? How much more solar potential is there? Passage of such a referendum could catapult Florida to No. 1 in such a ranking given that it has the most solar potential of any state East of the Mississippi River.

While Florida Power & Light is not listed as a company participating in the study, AEE does spotlight the impressive fact that FP&L has deployed smart meters to its entire customer base of almost 5 million homes and facilities.

Ah, but there is an inconvenient truth about FP&L: while the parent company, NextEra Energy, extols the virtues of solar outside of Florida for its shareholders, its critics assert top management is working to defeat the campaign to put a solar choice amendment on the 2016 general election ballot in Florida. Smart perhaps, as long as it doesn’t include customer-owned solar.






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