Florida Clean Energy Needs Leadership
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA, the U.S. housing finance regulator) recently solidified its opposition to Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. The lone renewable energy initiative that won support in the 2010 Florida legislature, charting state-wide procedures for PACE, was the only move for clean energy the Florida legislature made since 2008—but now it’s stopped dead.
Without FHFA support, mortgage companies won’t lend to businesses and homeowners who have PACE financing. This effective veto over PACE programs leaves the Sunshine State without this otherwise effective and broadly available renewable energy development program.
The PACE concept is to give homeowners or small businesses the option to finance clean energy improvements (solar panels systems, energy-efficient air conditioning, etc.) through additional assessment on their property tax bills. Until FHFA’s issues with PACE are resolved, in Florida we have to move forward on our own to expand solar energy, biopower and energy efficiency.
In a letter to members of Congress, FHFA’s director outlined an assessment of PACE’s threats to the nation’s housing finance system: chiefly, to preserve the primacy of mortgage liens. The PACE concept may languish, because this FHFA position has a ring of finality about it and considering the stressed and uncertain state of the housing and mortgage industries today. Florida’s efforts to depend on PACE policy and process (2010 HB 7179) may be for naught.
Florida has skilled people—too many of whom are unemployed or underemployed—with experience in the construction, aerospace and allied industries that could support substantial jobs growth in the state’s renewable energy arena. We can keep money in our local economy by undertaking investments in energy efficiency enhancements and renewable energy systems that improve the economics and reliability of our power systems.
Leadership is needed in Florida from the legislature and by the governor: set renewable resource targets for electricity generation, drive substantial and consistently-available money into long-term incentives for individuals and businesses to speed up and undertake clean energy investments, and put Florida engineers, builders, and technicians back to work. We can change the profile of Florida energy, and diversify our local economy.
Refusing innovation leaves our electric power needs dependent on:
- Imported fuels (think “cash leaves our state’s economy” -and- continued national security risks)
- Fossil fuels (with CO2/GHG and other air pollutants)
- Centralized systems with concentrated vulnerabilities (versus wide-scale distributed generation and network systems)
- Unnecessary waste of energy due to lack of support and attention for efficiency advancements
Here’s why this matters: We needed PACE to help people be part of the solution; people wanted solutions to these problems.
Florida knows that what’s available is the sun. People can put solar panels on their rooftops, owners of forests and farms want to be a part of the solution. PACE was about joining people with financial motivations with people who want solutions.
Imagine solar hot-water heaters on every rooftop, energy efficiency improvements that help every family avoid wasting energy, and well-managed forest and agriculture products serving biopower options. We want successful and responsibly profitable power companies serving Florida. We have the local energy resources, we just need to support their financing and appropriate earnings with policies that reward the right behavior.
Will the Florida legislature step forward with an answer that helps people obtain the solutions that people want?
Florida’s support for PACE was a victory, an indication of support for addressing our problem. However, that victory was taken from us. Those who supported PACE for Florida should help us develop a better solution.
Opportunities are available to move far forward in the renewable energy field. Florida business leaders and those who have accepted responsibilities in government should work now to get folks busy with renewable energy and efficiency improvements.
We can be a state shining brightly in the new century. Let’s embark toward our clean energy future.
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