Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stimulus to Help Utilities Go Green; the Question Is How to Use Renewable Energy without Rate Increases

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stimulus to Help Utilities Go Green; the Question Is How to Use Renewable Energy without Rate Increases

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUNT

The federal stimulus package is expected to pump nearly $125 million into renewable energy projects in Florida, according to state documents.

It's not clear how exactly it will be spent, but the money comes at a time when the state's utilities are at a crossroads.

Gov. Charlie Crist has called for reductions in the amount of coal burned to produce electricity, a challenge that has many utilities thinking green. But engineers have found there's a catch.

Coal, even with last year's cost run-ups, has historically been the cheaper alternative to cleaner sources of energy such as solar and wind power.

This has had utilities such as JEA wondering how to go green without rate increases. That's a sensitive issue in Jacksonville, where fuel-price hikes had monthly electric bills up by about $20 on average last year.

CEO Jim Dickenson told the JEA board of directors last week that the utility has 80 megawatts of generating capacity -- about 3 percent of the grid at peak times -- from renewables, primarily solar. Environmental legislation, state and federal, could require much larger proportions in coming decades.

"You have to do it because you'll have to do it," Dickenson said. "It's certainly one of those projects where if you didn't have a mandate to move forward it wouldn't be economical to do it."

Entrepreneurs, some here in Jacksonville, have been working to make renewable power more commonplace, thereby bringing down the cost.

But this has been another problem. Venture capital is tough to come by, and even before the economy started slumping, the state was criticized for having only $37.5 million in its renewable energy grant program in 2007 when hundreds of millions of dollars worth of projects were pitched.

In 2008, the legislators appropriated $15 million. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.