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Analyst: Midterm Elections Are An Opportunity For The Sunshine State To Up Its Renewable Energy Use

Andrew Quintana
Solar panels at a Florida Power and Light solar farm in West Kendall.

New leaders in Florida may mean new opportunities for the state’s energy policy, according to Hal Harvey, the head of a think tank called Energy Innovation and a co-author of a book called Designing Climate Solutions. The book looks at the most effective policies for limiting climate change and how to implement them. Harvey says there’s a lot that newly elected and re-elected leaders on state and local levels can do.

"Electric and gas utilities are regulated by states," Harvey said in an interview with WLRN. Officials "can set efficiency standards for vehicles, if they follow the California model. They can set building codes... windows that reflect heat rather than let it into the house, for example."

Harvey said Florida officials should focus on increasing the use of solar. The price of using solar energy has dropped by 80 percent over the past decade.

"There’s so much sunshine in Florida," he said, "it’s rather insane not to have one of the most aggressive solar energy programs in the world."

He said unified action by local elected officials could make a big difference in getting South Florida’s major energy company, Florida Power and Light, to focus more on solar energy. The company currently has 14 solar farms in Florida and is constructing four more, including one in West Kendall. But FPL also has come under fire for actions opponents regard as anti-solar, including supporting a proposed 2016 amendment to the state constitution that could have raised costs for solar users and created obstacles for other companies hoping to break into the state solar energy market.

"If the city of Miami and other cities banded together and said, 'We want to buy 100 percent renewable energy,' the utility would have to react, and so would the state public utility commission," Harvey said.

Harvey noted renewable energy could bring substantial job gains to the Sunshine State, since installing solar panels is a job that can’t be outsourced to foreign countries.

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