Florida students advocate for clean energy at the State Capitol
More than a hundred students from across Florida traveled to the State Capitol on Wednesday to advocate for bipartisan legislation that would make it easier for schools to install solar panels.
“If these emergency shelters that people rely on across the state of Florida had solar power, they would have access to energy the whole time because the sun is a free resource," said Samantha Kaddis, a Florida State University senior who's studying environment and society.
Legislation filed in the House and Senate — HB 195 and SB 178 — would give school districts greater flexibility to spend money on renewable-energy and energy-storage technology, generators and upgrades to emergency shelters.
"What better way to reduce carbon emissions and energy costs than harnessing the power of the sun on our educational facilities?" said state Sen. Lori Berman (D-Boyton Beach) during a press conference on Wednesday. "Our bill removes a critical barrier that impedes schools from investing in solar technology and battery storage devices."
Berman is co-sponsoring SB 178 with Republican state Sen. Alexis Calatayud of Miami and other senators. The measure has received unanimous support as it moves through committee.
The CLEO Institute, along with other nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations, organized the youth clean energy advocacy day at the State Capitol on Wednesday. The institute works to educate the public about climate change and advocate for policies to mitigate its effects.
“There have been historic levels of resiliency infrastructure funding that have been introduced," said Salome Garcia, senior policy manager with the CLEO Institute. "However, the definition of resiliency is quite limited to sea level rise and flooding infrastructure."
Garcia says the institute's members would like to change that this legislative session. "We have to expand the definition of resiliency to include mitigation measures like clean energy."
And the youth movement is helping to get more state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on board, Garcia said.
“Every one student that is here today is representing fifty other students that could not take the day off, that do not have the resources to come," she said. "So the fact that we’re here with over a hundred advocates, we’re representing hundreds of people.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the CLEO Institute organized the youth clean energy advocacy day. The event was actually a coalition effort. Rethink Energy Florida, Alianza and Our Climate also helped put together the event.