State Ag commissioner Nikki Fried proposes Florida's first statewide renewable energy goals
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried this week called for a phase-out of fossil fuels used for electricity generation by 2050.
Fried, who is running for governor, issued the state’s first set of renewable energy goals for power companies on Thursday during an appearance in Miami.
“It’s embarrassing and it’s dangerous that our state has ignored the very threat of climate change for way too long,” Fried said from the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. “We can’t afford to deny this reality or the urgency of what is happening to our state. We need to be doing so much more when it comes to finding solutions and protecting our environment.”
The proposed rule aims to see Florida use 40% renewables by 2030; 63% by 2035; 82% by 2040; and 100% by 2050.
Florida electric companies are regulated by the Florida Public Service Commission. The PSC said its staff members would review the goals.
Utilities like Florida Power & Light Co. have set their own internal goals for greater use of solar, for example, but not necessarily goals that set a deadline to use only renewable energy.
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Agriculture to monitor renewables effort, but who would enforce goals?
The rule also would require electric utilities to send their 10-year outlooks — a document that is already required to be submitted each year to the PSC — to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, where the state’s Office of Energy sits. The department, through this rule, would also evaluate how well each utility is following the state renewable energy goals.
State agriculture officials acknowledged that they would have no way of enforcing these standards. Rather, that power falls with the PSC.
A PSC spokesperson said its staff would also be "considering whether filing any comment is necessary or appropriate."
FPL, the state’s largest electric utility, uses mostly natural gas to fuel its power plants. The utility’s overall fuel mix in 2021 was roughly two-thirds natural gas, with nearly 20% of its power from nuclear and 4% from solar. While natural gas is considered cleaner than oil or coal, it still is a fossil fuel.
FPL doesn’t have an express goal to reach 100% renewable energy by a certain date. In its 10-year outlook submitted to the commission this month, FPL said it expects 38% of the power generated will come from renewable sources by 2031.
The Juno Beach-based utility has built 50 solar farms across the state and is projected to meet its goal to install 30 million solar panels by 2025.
“Simply put, we believe that no company in any industry has done more to reduce carbon emissions and to confront climate change than FPL/NextEra Energy,” said NextEra Energy spokesperson Bryan Garner.
Garner added that the company will “look forward to learning more about the proposed rule-making process.”
Delaney Reynolds, a climate activist from Miami, was one of 200 youths who signed a petition with the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust asking Fried’s office in January to require utilities to generate 100% renewable energy by 2050.
She said the proposed rule “holds the promise of starting to solve the core cause of our climate change crisis: our use of fossil fuels.”
Reynolds specifically called on Gov. Ron DeSantis and FPL CEO Eric Silagy to support the rule.
“It’s time for the state of Florida to catch up and to be a leader in this type of energy policy,” she said. “We no longer have time to waste.”
Hannah Morse covers consumer issues for The Palm Beach Post. Drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 561-820-4833 or follow her on Twitter @mannahhorse.