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

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

Hal Harvey, a co-author of a book on policies to slow climate change, says Florida's local and state officials have an opportunity to advance renewable energy in the Sunshine State.

"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.

Copyright 2018 WLRN 91.3 FM

Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.