With the Right Policies, Florida Could be Solar's Next Big Opportunity
It’s not called “The Sunshine State” for nothing.
Florida is known for its sunny days and warm, humid climate. It would make sense that the solar industry would take off in one of the sunniest states in the country.
However, that hasn’t been the case.
Restrictive rules and fear from conventional utilities have made solar energy in Florida a difficult proposition for many. Ironically, sates in the northeastern portion of the U.S. have cloudier skies, but clearer solar incentives. The business models that have made solar so effective in the rest of the country are essentially outlawed in the South, forcing some companies, such as SolarCity, to essentially ignore doing business there despite a growing demand.
“We get all kinds of inquiries every day,” Will Craven, spokesman for SolarCity, told Jacksonville.com. “People there want to be our customers.”
Craven calls Florida the “sleeping giant” of his industry. “It has a ton of sunshine, a ton of rooftops,” he said. “But there is no rooftop solar industry in Florida.”
One reason for this is lack of current incentives. While other states have tax breaks and various government incentives, Florida lacks any sort of policy infrastructure that would make solar an attractive option for homeowners. Any policy regarding solar is generally negative and places taxes and fees on the industry that don’t exist elsewhere.
Much of Florida—and the South in general’s—electricity is generated from burning cheap, dirty coal.
Utilities believe that the introduction of rooftop solar could put a heavy burden on the power grid, and since they are tasked with its maintenance, they view it as simply losing money.
“We want to bring on more renewables, but we also want to make sure the cost of electricity stays reasonable,” Randy Wheeless, a spokesman for Duke Energy, told Jacksonville.com.
However, despite all the opposition and high cost of entry for solar in Florida, the outlook is surprisingly positive. In Jacksonville specifically, solar has begun to take off in the post-recession economy. More friendly economic incentives and a higher percentage of homeowners are helping Jacksonville get started on the path to green energy.
Environment America, an environmental advocacy group, ranked Jacksonville 13th in a report released in April recognizing American cities with the highest number of homes with full-home solar capacity.
President of SunWorks solar David Smith told Jacksonville.com that solar has come a long way from 5 years ago, with costs being reduced dramatically and utilities providing incentives for solar water heaters.
“Today, we are literally cost competitive with utility,” Smith told the website.
Florida is looking to become a power-player in the solar industry with its solar-friendly physical landscape. Now, it just needs an effective policy one to attract investors.
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.