Essay by FLVCS member Coty Keller.
To use Paula Dockery’s analogy, David has (again) slain Goliath. The Voters have turned out the lights on Amendment one (attached). Thanks to all of you who helped make this happen!
For me, the overriding story over the past year has been the bantering about solar power in Florida. All the bickering has caused many citizens to lose sight of the real issue. Instead of being about selfish interests, it should instead be about a stable climate, jobs, the economy and household income.
The real problem is that unless we reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions we will face the terrible effects of climate change. This has been made clear by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the UN Panel on climate, who advise that we must reduce GHG emissions by 50% right away (by 2015) with 80% reductions by mid-century.
Generating electricity is a large part of our emissions problem. These plants emit more carbon dioxide than our cars, planes and homes combined. We are being distracted from real solutions by fighting over how to put solar power to use. On one side are those who see smaller power generators like those of rooftop solar as the answer. They believe they can, under the right policies, provide a source of reliable and cheap power. (Disclaimer: we have a 5 kw PV system on our roof. I benefit from rooftop solar)
On the other side are the utility companies who say large scale solar plants are more efficient than rooftop generators. They prefer to control inputs to the electric grid. Utilities have stockholder profit to consider. They don’t want to lose revenues to people generating their own power.
It would be in our best interest to respect the interests of both sides. After all, roof top solar folks are entitled to earn a living and utility companies should be able to make a profit for shareholders. God knows we will need lots and lots of both kinds of solar if we are to succeed in reducing emissions and having a chance for a stable climate.
Here are solutions that citizens should support now, in the wake of the defeat of Amendment 1. Here is the real work to be done:
• Congress should enact Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation. The fee is imposed at the mine, well or port of entry. It starts at $15 for every ton of CO2 the fuels will emit. Every year the fee is increased another $10. Money collected from the carbon fee are returned directly to households as a monthly dividend. About two-thirds of households will break even or receive more than they would pay in higher prices. This proposal is supported by energy companies such as Exxon-Mobile because they will be able to plan and reduce risk.
• Electric Utilities should upgrade business models so they will be generating less power even with population growth. This can be achieved by expanding distributed power (roof top solar in particular) and helping customers conserve power by making their homes and businesses more efficient. Utilities will also be shifting from GHG emitting sources of energy to non-emitters (Solar, Wind, Hydro, Nuclear) and making money doing so because of the steadily increasing price on carbon. Monthly statements to customers will make it clear how much (and of what kind of) power everyone is using and how much GHG they are responsible for emitting. These sorts of statements will also let everyone know what progress we are making towards our goals.
• Local Governments should tighten up building codes so all new construction and renovated buildings conserve energy. The 90 plus percent savings that can be achieved (with LEED and Service Star standards, and roof top solar) in energy bills will pay handsome economic returns to home/building owners. Meanwhile, utilities won’t have to generate so much power.
• State government must require electrical utilities to produce at least 50% of their output from non-emitting sources (Solar, Wind, Hydro, Nuclear) by 2015 and 80% by 2015. Because of the steadily increasing the price on carbon, this transition will happen more by choice than by mandate. Because the revenues will be returned to households in the form of monthly dividends, family budgets will be bolstered and the economy will be stimulated. Florida also must upgrade the our energy conservation program (free energy audits, etc.) to help people use less energy. We also must make Virtual Net Metering into law. Also called Group or Neighborhood Metering, this allows utility customers to share the electricity output from a single solar power generator. Folks in a Condo or apartment building, for example, could share the benefits from a common, larger photovoltaic system.
With these kinds of solutions,* Florida will quickly begin to look like the Sunshine State, with solar panels on roof tops and in large power plants – everywhere you look. The power of free enterprise will assure not only a stable climate, but a robust economy, more jobs, better health and more secure household income.
William “Coty” Keller, Ph.D.
*if you would like to see details and rationale for this set of solutions, please see http://www.ecopapak.org/ecology/Energy/How%20The%20Sunshine%20State%20Can%20Live%20Up%20To%20Its%20Name.htm How The Sunshine State Can Live Up To Its Name, while enabling all to prosper
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