Kevin Doyle: EPA rules threaten Florida’s energy future


Published: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 4:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 4:06 p.m.

Due to Florida’s tourism, growing economy and tax-friendly policies, Florida has been, and will continue to be, a destination for many across the United States and the world. With the University of Florida recently projecting that Florida’s population could reach 29 million by 2040, it’s clear that the state’s consumers will need increasing amounts of energy. The Florida Reliability Coordinating Council expects the state’s electricity demand will rise by more than 10 gigawatts, or roughly 20 percent, through 2035.

With much of its economy dependent on tourism, millions of retirees continuing to call the state home, and projected population growth on the way, it is essential that one of the largest energy-consuming stares in the nation has a stable, abundant, and affordable supply of energy.

However, a new set of rules announced recently by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts Florida’s energy sector – and the economic security and stability that it supports – at risk.

The EPA’s proposal, a major part of President Obama's climate initiative, will set a national target of lowering these CO2 emissions — from 2005 levels — of 25 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030. The rule will not be finalized until next year, but then Florida will have only until June 2016 to develop and submit plans for cutting emissions about 38 percent.

As a result – as they are currently proposed, EPA’s proposed regulations will more than likely increase electricity prices for every Floridian. They will certainly add confusion and a much larger regulatory burden on every man, woman and child in the Sunshine State because the rules allow the state so little time to prepare a sensible plan.

At a time when electricity consumption is the state is projected to grow, these new rules will require coal-fired power plants to significantly reduce their carbon emissions, leaving these facilities with the difficult choice to either upgrade or shut down. Both options mean higher electricity prices for Florida consumers.

Essentially, the EPA is handing the states an unfunded mandate with instructions to eliminate coal-fired generation – and targeting coal, an energy source that accounts for nearly a quarter of Florida’s electricity generation. But if coal-fired utilities close prematurely, how will Florida fill the gap while meeting growing consumer energy demands?

Instead of eliminating energy sources for Floridians, we need to have all options on the table – including nuclear, natural gas, renewables and coal – to ensure that utilities and electric cooperatives can deliver affordable and reliable electricity to America’s families, factories, and farms.

Unfortunately, the level of cuts in coal-based generation and the timelines for implementation that are proposed will cause substantial reliability concerns and ensure higher electricity prices across the board. Right now there are no clear answers, and such a predicament would put Florida – whose annual electricity expenditures are about $1,900, 40 percent higher than the U.S. average, according to the EPA – in a very precarious energy and economic position.

Ultimately, the prospect of carbon regulation under EPA’s proposed rules should create much concern across Florida, which demand close attention from both our policymakers and every Florida energy consumer, whether you’re a farmer, small business owner, manufacturer, or senior.

For all of these reasons, the Consumer Energy Alliance encourages Floridians and our elected leaders to support policies that protect the environment, but have a balanced approach that protects our energy and economic security as well.

During this exciting time of growth in the state’s history, supporting an all-of-the-above approach will prove itself as a successful path for the future, allowing energy supplies to be more secure and more affordable for our citizens. That means all energy sources – nuclear, natural gas, renewable electricity, and, yes, coal – must remain strongly in the equation.

Kevin Doyle is executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida.

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