Why the Pitchforks are coming out in Florida

As the Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) for over 20 years, I pride myself and the organization in our capacity to work collaboratively with utilities and decision makers to achieve strong results. SACE has a long history working with utilities in all of our Southeastern states, and we have achieved some positive outcomes examples here, here, and here  and developed some strong relationships over the years.

Of course, collaboration requires that all parties are willing to engage in a serious and mutually respectful relationship. My colleagues at SACE and I take our role as advocates for clean energy very seriously, and when we engage with utilities and decision makers, we show up in a professional and respectful way. We know that this is the best way to achieve positive results, and we expect the same of our counterparts at the region’s utilities.

Today, we are clearly at a low point in our relationships with Florida utilities, and we truly believe we have arrived here as a result of the utilities’ arrogance and refusal to engage in serious discussion. We have been extremely disappointed in the poor manner in which utilities in Florida have chosen to engage with advocates and stakeholders in recent years, as well as the negative light within which they have chosen to cast clean renewable energy and affordable energy efficiency before regulatory bodies and the state legislature. No doubt leadership in Tallahassee from the Governor on down has led to a “Utilities Gone Wild” oversight philosophy by the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). The utilities have fueled this breakdown in regulatory oversight with cash, lots of cash. It’s not only Duke. Florida Power and Light (FPL) in many ways leads in this arrogant approach to stakeholder relationships and corrupting the political process in Tallahassee.

Our focus in this particular action is Duke because Duke Energy Florida and its predecessor, Progress Energy Florida, have, for a number of years, refused to seriously work together with SACE and other stakeholders to explore constructive ways to collaborate for real solutions for Florida. They have also taken a number of actively misdirected positions before the PSC that we believe are untenable to a constructive relationship, including (but not limited to):

In response to this aggression and the utilities’ refusal to collaborate productively, SACE is hosting a Pitchfork Protest outside of Duke Energy Florida’s St. Petersburg headquarters this Wednesday, October 29. The purpose of this event is to send a very clear signal to Duke Executives, shareholders, and elected officials in Florida that Duke customers and all Floridians deserve better corporate leadership than what Duke is offering.

We are not undertaking this event lightly – we believe that in a free society, customers and citizens have a right to express themselves clearly and strongly, and we believe that this protest is a necessary step to address the complete insensitivity and lack of cooperation that Duke and other utility companies in Florida have been getting away with.

Remember we are only providing the pitchforks, Duke and legacy Progress Energy provided the angry customers.

Join us Wednesday in downtown St. Pete to exercise your rights to protest monopoly power and bad political leadership! Click here for details. Read more…

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What happens when the wind doesn’t blow?

It’s likely you’ve heard the argument that renewable energy is unreliable because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. It’s true that renewable resources are variable. We can’t make the wind blow and the sun shine 24 hours a day. That’s just nature. But, does this mean that large amounts of solar and wind can’t be incorporated into the grid?

It’s time to set the record straight.

Renewables, like solar and wind, are already providing clean, reliable electricity across the country. At the second half of 2014, the U.S. had nearly 16 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) installed. The U.S. currently has over 62 gigawatts of wind energy installed with about 13,600 megawatts currently under construction. In 2013, Iowa and South Dakota produced more than 25% of their total electricity from wind energy. In Europe, countries are taking renewable energy to a new level. Denmark, with ambitious goals to reach 100% renewable energy by 2050, currently produces over 40% of its energy from renewables. In April 2013, Spain produced 54% of its electricity from renewable sources. Solar met over 50% of Germany’s total electric demand on an afternoon in June of this year. This demonstrates that it is possible for renewable energy to pay a key role in our electricity sector.

Read more…

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Business Leaders Agree: Florida Needs A Clean Energy Wake-up Call

It is no secret that clean energy advocates, from those of us at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to Conservatives for Energy Freedom founder Debbie Dooley, think that Floridians are being cheated out of their right to produce clean, sustainable solar energy.

As we’ve often said, politicians and utilities in the Sunshine State are keeping Florida from truly living up to its nickname. The state is our nation’s largest source of untapped solar potential, and yet big monopoly utilities like Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light are suppressing the market.

But it’s not just about protecting your rights to a cleaner energy future; it’s also about creating and supporting new clean energy jobs that can bolster Florida’s economy. And Florida’s current policies and leadership aren’t supporting that mission either. Read more…

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EPA Clean Power Plan Underestimates Power of Renewable Energy to Reduce Carbon Emissions

This blog was written by Steve Clemmer, Director of Energy Research, Clean Energy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and originally appeared on UCS’ blog “The Equation.”  The original post can be found here.

UCS released a new analysis [Tuesday] showing that strengthening the contribution from renewable energy can significantly increase the emissions reductions from the EPA’s 2014 Clean Power Plan. We found that increasing non-hydro renewable energy sources from about 6 percent of U.S. electricity sales today to 23 percent by 2030—or nearly twice as much renewable energy as the EPA proposed—could raise the reductions in U.S. power plant carbon emissions from the EPA’s estimated 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 to 40 percent. We also found that increasing renewables to these levels is affordable, resulting in little impact on electricity prices and lowering natural gas prices for both utilities and consumers.
Read more…

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Why 2015 Will Be a Pivotal Year for the US Offshore Wind Industry

Onshore wind turbines in Atlantic City, NJ

Last week I attended the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) annual offshore WINDPOWER conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Wind energy developers, government officials, non-profit advocates and academia came together to discuss exciting developments in the U.S. offshore wind energy industry.

This was a great location to highlight offshore wind energy opportunities. Atlantic City was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and is very susceptible to climate change and sea-level rise. Fortunately, the city is already taking advantage of the benefits wind power has to offer. Atlantic City has five onshore wind turbines that serve as a major tourist attraction with some 15,000 people visiting the turbines every year! New Jersey is also moving closer to developing one of the country’s first offshore wind farms three miles off the coast of Atlantic City–which could bring 500 jobs to the local community.

Read more…

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Insights on climate and energy from the newest Nobel Prize winner

Economics is present throughout the scientific study of global warming.

Can it really have been three years since I opined at length through a series of blogs on the free market perspective on climate change? Yet here we are, struggling to work through the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal.

Today we celebrate the accomplishments of French economist Jean Tirole, winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. His work is particularly relevant for those of us concerned with the leadership of electric utilities, their regulators, and the growing number of us who are trying to respond to the growing impacts of global warming. Below are a few tidbits from his work that relate to each of these issues.

Writing on regulatory capture, Tirole and of his several colleagues have explored the balance between the altruistic regulator, who wants to “do the right thing,” and the self-interested (even corrupt) regulator who has been “captured” by the monopoly that s/he is entrusted to oversee. (See p. 18 of the Economic Sciences Prize Committee’s background paper). Confronting the dismal view of mainstream economists, Jean Tirole and his colleagues argued that some regulators may not be entirely self-interested, but may have both their own interests and social motivations at heart. Read more…

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U.S. Falters Again on Global Climate Leadership Despite Small Steps at Home

Last month at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York, President Obama acknowledged America’s responsibility to act on climate change. On the eve of the U.N. Summit, hundreds of thousands of people marched on the streets of New York’s financial district and called for aggressive action from the private sector to curb global carbon emissions, which increased by 2.3% in 2013.

The U.N. Summit was convened to put pressure on industrialized countries to commit to reducing emissions in advance of the 21st round of U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) international negotiations (COP21) taking place next year in Paris. In the end, 74 countries and 1,000 companies pledged their support for a global price on carbon at the NY Summit and embraced a market solution to climate change. Unfortunately, the U.S. did not sign this declaration, yet again leaving such negotiations without fully committing to serious efforts to addressing this serious global threat. Despite our years of inaction and toothless signs of support internationally, here at home recent efforts by the Obama Administration to reduce nationwide carbon emissions, like the Clean Power Plan and various executive actions, have helped raise hopes that our country will eventually stand together with world leaders on international efforts.

Read more…

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Coal industry inspires easy solution to droughts

Is "low-carbon coal" like dehydrated water? Hmm, both appear to be blue.

So there’s this new group, CoalBlue, which claims that “A clean-energy, low-carbon world can only be achieved with clean, low-carbon coal.”

I got to thinking, what is low-carbon coal? According to the World Coal Association, “Coal is a combustible, sedimentary, organic rock, which is composed mainly of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.”

So, coal without (much) carbon is just hydrogen and oxygen, aka “water.”

Is CoalBlue claiming that the clean-energy future should be powered by water? Why all the verbal gymnastics? Read more…

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Southeast Florida Continues Climate Leadership

Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership SummitLast week, the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact hosted its annual Climate Leadership Summit, to highlight the work that is being carried out by Southeast Florida communities to get ready for the impacts of climate change, like more frequent and severe coastal flooding, and also help set the agenda for work to come. The Summit took place Oct. 1 – 2 at the Miami Beach Convention Center, featured 48 presenters representing government (from city councilman all the way up to the White House), business, academia, and a number of international representatives as well. The attendance at this year’s summit was the highest of any of the annual summits to date, completely selling out with 650 attendees. SACE was able to attend for the fourth year running (see blogs from previous years: 201120122013).

SACE Florida Director, Susan Glickman, with John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, a keynote speaker at the Climate Leadership Summit.

As we’ve reported before, the tone of climate action in Southeast Florida is very unique in the Southern US, given its bipartisan and relatively uncontroversial nature. However this tone is a matter of circumstance–it is a matter-of-fact tone because Southeast Florida lives a daily reality of climate change. It’s hard to deny the sea is rising when tidal flooding that occurs, even without any rain, completely floods the streets, as it is doing today on the day of the highest tide of the year (also known as the ‘King Tide’). Not only is it heartening to see the local community come together around this issue, but also to see how much the Compact has made an impact elsewhere.

The Compact has spawned a spinoff climate compact effort in Durban, South Africa, and has undoubtedly inspired numerous other climate planning initiatives domestically, but in spite of this, there is still a serious lack of support from Tallahassee. In fact, Tallahassee’s failure to act on climate change is so bad that South Miami has passed a resolution in support of South Florida breaking away from the political gridlock of Tallahassee by forming the 51st state of the union, with a state government that adequately addresses threats from climate change. The governments of South Florida are forging a path forward toward prosperity in a changing climate, yet are not being supported by state officials in a meaningful way. While the opportunity for leadership from Tallahassee is certainly there–for example Florida has the greatest solar resource east of the Mississippi and also has the most coastline at risk of rising seas–the question is really whether Tallahassee or Washington D.C. politicians will act as leaders or continue to stand in the way of a better future. Read more…

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Why the South is the Next Frontier for Wind Energy

Buffalo Mountain Wind Farm

Today, SACE is releasing a new analysis, called Advanced Wind Technology: Elevated Opportunities for the South, showing that the South is the next frontier for wind energy. Our conclusion is based on analysis of new turbine technology, as well as several case studies of wind turbines that reveal a promising future for Southern wind farms.

New wind turbine technology is a game changer for wind energy opportunities in the South. In just five years, wind turbines have greatly evolved to be more suitable across the region. Wind turbine hub heights ranging from 360-460 feet (110-140 meters) are now available for wind developers. Taller turbines and longer blades are capable of capturing more wind, which results in harnessing more electricity and reducing costs. One modern 2 megawatt wind turbine can now power approximately 600 homes a year!

Read more…

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