TALLAHASSEE – Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, in his new role as Florida’s top energy official, urged lawmakers Thursday to scale back renewable energy goals to a more realistic level as they develop an energy policy for the state.
Putnam rolled out his recommendations during an appearance before the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee.
“It’s important that we lead with some modesty,” Putnam said. “I’m interested in the art of the possible. I learned a long time ago that in this process you can make a statement or you can make a law.”
The Legislature last year abolished the governor’s Energy and Climate Commission and transferred its duties to a new Energy Office in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Lawmakers have been struggling for years to come up with a state energy policy.
Putnam’s recommendations include restoring expired tax breaks for renewables and scrapping renewable energy portfolio standards for electric utilities. Those standards have been a major stumbling block in the energy policy quest.
Former Gov. Charlie Crist had pushed for a goal of generating 20 percent of Florida’s electrical power from solar, wind, biomass and other renewables by 2020, but that met resistance from utilities and lawmakers worried about the cost.
Putnam wants to cap renewable energy at no more than 75 megawatts or 1 percent of a utility’s annual generating capacity, whichever is less, to curb costs to consumers.
Another proposal is to let utilities invest in Public Service Commission-approved financing projects for private renewable energy facilities. Current law allows it only for government-owned solid waste facilities.
Putnam also urged lawmakers to take steps that would increase fuel diversity by adding that factor to cost stability and reliability when the PSC evaluates a utility.
The state has taken steps to encourage the expansion of nuclear power, which Putnam says accounts for 10 percent of the state’s electrical needs. The main incentive is letting utilities pass on to customers the planning and construction costs of nuclear plants years before they are operational.
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