Opinion: Energizing Opportunities Full Speed Ahead
Since assuming the state’s Office of Energy on July 1, 2011, it has been my priority to work with the Legislature to develop and pass a balanced energy policy for our state. Last October, I hosted the first Florida Energy Summit, where key stakeholders in the energy industry, including utilities, farmers, investors, academics, and public officials, came together to discuss Florida’s energy future.
The ideas shared at the summit guided the development of my energy policy recommendations for the Legislature to consider during the 2012 legislative session. My proposals for Florida’s energy policy are intended to help our state secure a stable, reliable, and diverse supply of energy.
America’s energy market is heavily distorted by layers of incentives, disincentives, mandates, and directives. With nearly every election comes a new policy promoting the latest “next big thing” in energy development. The confusing mix of policies inhibits the ability of America’s free-market system to operate at its capacity. I don’t believe government should be in the business of picking winners and losers. The market must determine what energy sources are viable over the long term and we must create a climate that encourages the development of new technologies, new businesses, and new jobs in the energy sector, without tipping the scales for one technology over another.
In growing the energy industry, we must increase diversity in the state’s energy supply. More than half of the electricity generated in Florida comes from natural gas, and that figure will rise in the years ahead. While natural gas prices are at record lows today, dependence on one source for a majority of our energy supply puts Floridians at risk if there is a supply disruption. The next hurricane to hit Florida could disrupt the only two gas pipelines currently bringing natural gas to our state through the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in a shortage of supply, threatening reliability, and sending prices through the roof. It is important to have multiple sources of fuel for electricity generation.
The legislative measures I proposed are designed to reduce market manipulation and risk by promoting growth in the energy sector and increasing diversity in the state’s energy supply. First, I’ve proposed that the Legislature extend recently expired tax incentives that will encourage the development of new technologies and attract new investments to Florida. I’ve also suggested the state consider the unique characteristics of renewable energy when evaluating new energy facilities proposed for the state of Florida. Finally, my recommendations promote energy efficiency. Florida’s energy policy would not be comprehensive if it did not include efforts to conserve our use of energy.
Taking The Long View
Collectively, the measures I outlined will position Florida on a path toward a consistent, long-term energy strategy, one that will restore confidence in the energy market.
At a time when much of the economy remains stagnant, jobs in the renewable energy industry were projected to increase by more than 16% over the last year. Even in this difficult economy, investors are willing to invest in energy. We must capitalize on this opportunity by positioning Florida as a natural draw for energy infrastructure with its abundant sunshine and year-round growing season. If we’re successful, we’ll attract new businesses and create much-needed jobs for Floridians, while giving landowners a potential new revenue stream rooted in our abundant natural resources.
The energy industry is critical to economic development in Florida’s rural communities. The largest investments will be made in the growth and production of bioenergy, which leverages Florida’s strong capabilities in agriculture, but preserves the character of Florida’s small towns.
Energy policy is inherently difficult to pass. But given the natural competitive advantages we have, Florida needs a smart, balanced, and modern energy policy. I am working with the Legislature to best position our state for the future growth and fuel diversity this policy will bring. Americans know the cost of being dependent on foreign nations for our energy. Let’s hope they never learn the costs of being dependent on others for our food.