Lawmakers must create renewable-energy jobs

Opinion Editorial by Stephen Smith
Originally published March 19, 2009 in the Orlando Sentinel

Aaron Deslatte’s column, “Legislature 2010: Can Lawmakers Create Jobs?” on recently, provided a good overview of the efforts that the state Legislature is considering to lower Florida’s high unemployment rate.

In Deslatte’s column, House Speaker Larry Cretul says, “We’ve all heard ‘government doesn’t create jobs,’ but government has the ability to create the environment for jobs to flourish.”

where-to-find-green-jobsCretul is right. The enormous potential for job creation in the renewable-energy sector — solar, biomass, geothermal energy and other cutting-edge innovations — should be high on lawmakers’ lists for the 2010 session. The renewable-energy industry grew three times as fast as the U.S. economy in 2007, and this is business that Florida ought to jump on now. Florida is already losing renewable-energy jobs to other states and countries. China, in particular, is charging ahead with renewable-energy manufacturing and innovation.

Florida could — and should — be on the leading edge of this industry. More than 75 percent of renewable-energy jobs are in the manufacturing and construction industries — the exact skill sets for many of Florida’s unemployed construction-trade workers.

Florida has one of the largest economies in the United States — bigger than a lot of countries — yet 80 percent of the dollars spent on energy here now flow out of state. We need to keep those dollars in-state by growing clean energy business here.

A robust renewable-energy market would produce demand for billions of dollars of components needed for renewable-energy plants and technology. A 2009 study by the Blue Green Alliance examined the benefits of a strong renewable-energy market in Florida and found that renewable-energy growth would create business for up to 1,617 firms and as many as 18,704 green jobs in the solar, wind, geothermal and biomass industries.

Other states have put market incentives in place to grow the renewable-energy sector. The states establish targets for the amount of renewable energy that’s part of their overall energy mix. Gov. Charlie Crist proposed a target of 20 percent renewable energy by the year 2020. The Legislature failed to pass it last year, but should move ahead this year.

If Florida fails to create that market certainty, other states — not Florida — will get in on the ground floor. Other states will attract the small businesses that create innovative energy solutions, improve solar collection and install geothermal heating and cooling systems, to name a few. Other states will land the large firms that build manufacturing plants and employ workers to produce the components needed for renewable-energy sources like biomass and solar.

Besides creating jobs, committing to a viable renewable-energy market in Florida will also insulate residents from volatile energy prices. A state’s energy mix is like a stock portfolio, and renewable resources are sensible low-risk investments. If we don’t change course, Florida will get almost half (46.7 percent) of its total electric supply from natural gas by 2017. Natural gas prices are volatile and dependent on unstable world events.

To move into the future, Florida should boost its investment in low-risk renewable resources, which account for only 4.4 percent of our energy mix today. Solar energy has no fuel costs and biomass uses a stable, homegrown fuel source that keeps dollars spent on fuel in Florida.

While conventional power capital costs are skyrocketing, rates for electricity from solar photovoltaic sources dropped from $27 per peak watt in 1982 to about $4 today. Electricity rates from dirty-fuel sources keep going up; Progress Energy announced a customer bill increase of 31 percent in August 2008. By contrast, states that diversified their economy with renewable energy have seen minimal or no rate impacts from renewable resources.

Floridians should urge their lawmakers to pass common-sense targets for renewable energy during this legislative session. It would be a shame for Florida to lose out on the jobs that are coming with the worldwide renewable-energy wave.

Copyright © 2010, Orlando Sentinel

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Pingback by Green Energy » Blog Archive » Lawmakers must create renewable-energy jobs on March 25, 2010 12:59 am

For a little over 1-year now I have been reviewing all of the various comments, blogs and reports regarding the renewable and clean energy discussion. Anyone that is truly interested in advancing the use of alternative energies needs to understand that it can actually happen if and only if, they start appealing to individual’s “common sense”.
When spoken about from a Political tone or even from a Social and Environmental voice, people tend not to want to listen. The fact is most people are disgusted with the political overtures thrown around the country. Once they get a sense that a politician is speaking of the subject, whether it be for the good or not, they tune out and the movement goes nowhere. The same rings true if spoken by an environmental activist type. The fact here is, most people do not want to be thought of as some “environmental greenie” type. Although, if the discussion were framed as an appeal to one’s “common sense” such as: 1) do you think we should STOP buying/importing oil from overseas…? Everyone spoken to would without a doubt answer emphatically YES! 2) Mention, are you aware that the U.S. uses 25% of the world’s oil but, can only produce 2% – so unless we do something else, we cannot stop importing the oil needed to survive. 3) Ask, are you aware that the U.S. Government, especially the military are currently using all sorts of renewable and clean energy to conduct their various businesses. 4) Express to the U.S. public that in China, only 1% of the population owns a car, yet the Chinese Government is aggressively pushing with big incentives its’ citizens to purchase automobiles, and that China’s population of course, is 3-times the size of ours – then ask, where do you think gasoline prices are going once their driving citizens get onboard? 5) Explain how by going renewable your electric bills will decrease. Of course however, if there is not a great demand for the renewable energy source, the prices are initially higher to the consumer but, if the demand were to arrive, prices would ultimately decrease, alas the way of “flat-screen televisions”.
The tone of the conversation must change if there is to be any headway made in the advancements of renewable energy. EVERYBODY would welcome the change if and only if, the texture of the discussion was different. Take a peek at a new site I discovered online,
It is my understanding that they are trying to change the texture of the discussion. Good for them, but better for the American people because, the current dialog hasn’t and isn’t getting us anywhere.

Comment by Curtis Grinn on April 7, 2010 8:03 pm

Gas prices these days are just getting higher, i think the government should focus more on alternative energy.-`-

Comment by Lewis Robinson on May 11, 2010 6:44 pm

Renewable energy is the way to go, not just for Florida, not just for the US, but for the all planet at large, creating millions of jobs all around the world, helping people getting out of employment, creating new subjects at schools and clearing the air the we breath, helping our well being and the one of the generations to come, not talking about our planet that is about to chocke.
That’s my opinion on the matter in general.

Comment by Otis on March 22, 2012 7:50 am

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