A recent poll of Florida registered voters conducted for the Florida Renewable Energy Association (FREA) demonstrates that Floridians overwhelmingly support a stronger, more aggressive policy for the development of renewable energy technology than that pursued by the Florida legislature. A stark contrast is markedly apparent when comparing support for specific policy measures favored by the public with legislative action over the past five years. This same contrast is also found when the comparison is made between current energy policy in Florida with that of the rest of the country.

As shown in this map of the U.S., thirty-seven states currently have either mandatory or voluntary goals for electric utilities to produce a greater percentage of electricity from renewable sources. Known as a renewable portfolio standard (RPS), the survey found that 69% of Florida voters support such goals to be mandatory. In January of 2009, a draft rule developed by the Florida Public Service Commission for an RPS was submitted to the state legislature but was never enacted and eventually abandoned.

Another popular policy tool used throughout the country is that of a public benefit fund. A small charge is collected on each monthly electric bill and used for financial incentives for manufacturing and installing renewable energy systems on homes and businesses. There are currently nineteen states using such a fund. In 2008, a poll of Florida voters expressed an 81% approval of a monthly fee of up to one dollar. In the recent survey, despite difficult economic times, 57 % expressed a willingness to pay at least 50 cents per month. This amount would generate more than $50 million annually to fund incentive programs. Unfortunately, continued proposals for such a fund have been rejected by the Florida legislature every year since 2007.

The issue receiving the strongest support (80%) was allowing private renewable energy companies to sell electricity directly to consumers and businesses. Known as power purchase agreements (PPA), the idea is to have a private company other than a utility finance and own the on-site generating equipment and receive monthly payments for the electricity produced. This eliminates upfront costs for the consumer and creates greater competition in the industry that also brings costs down. Currently in Florida, a law designed to regulate electric utilities prohibits this type of transaction. Two bills, SB 1106, and HB 779, designed to allow such agreements were proposed in the 2012 Florida legislative session but died in committees.

Of those surveyed, 67% rated the Florida Legislature as doing either a fair, poor, or very poor job in encouraging the development of renewable energy with 38% answering poor or very poor and only 12% answering good or excellent. The full results of the survey can be found here.

It is the position of FREA that a fundamental change in the direction of energy policy by the Florida legislature must take place immediately if we are to effectively deal with the economy and job creation, future energy costs and foreign dependency, and the destructive and unpredictabile consequences of climate change. This issue should be of the highest priority in this year’s legislative elections.

(The poll was conducted by Florida Opinion Research from May 23 through May 25, 2012 as part of a 2012 Florida Omnibus Survey. A total of 802 registered voters were interviewed statewide by telephone. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.46%.)

Further Reading:
Florida Energy Use Statistics – Employ Florida Banner Center
Most States have Renewable Portfolio Standards – U.S. Energy Information Administration
List of State Policies on Renewable Energy – Database of State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency
Clean Energy is Booming and Creating Jobs – Clean Energy States Alliance
“Partisan Divide” on Energy Issues is a Myth – Civil Society Institute
Full Survey Results in PDF
Crosstabs of Survey Results in PDF
Survey Press Release