As Governor, Sink Would ‘Study’ Renewable Energy Options
.Likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Alex Sink on Tuesday released her plans to tackle energy issues if she is elected governor, and promised a study of mandatory benchmarks on renewable energy for utilities.
Sink became the second major gubernatorial candidate to release a comprehensive energy proposal following independent candidate Lawton “Bud” Chiles, who said last month that Florida power companies will produce 20 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources in a decade if he takes office next year.
Sink didn’t go that far Tuesday. Instead, she said she would study the long-sought renewable energy standard that environmentalists have unsuccessfully tried to push through the Legislature. Sink called an RPS “critical to providing investors with confidence in Florida's commitment to promoting a robust marketplace for renewable energy development,” echoing supporters she met with at last month’s Clean Energy Congress in Tallahassee.
But where Chiles said he was for a 20 percent increase by 2020, Sink hued close to her carefully cultivated penny-pincher image and raised issued of cost.
“She supports moving Florida toward adopting a Renewable Portfolio Standard that will not negatively impact ratepayers,” her campaign said while touting what she dubbed “the plan for Florida's New Energy Future.”
“To facilitate those efforts, Alex will create an RPS task force of all key stakeholders to review the experience of other states with RPS programs and recommend a strategy for Florida,” the campaign’s statement on the plan said.
The RPS was once vocally supported by current Gov. Charlie Crist, who cemented a reputation as one of the nation’s most environmentally-conscious Republicans when he signed an executive order calling for the 20 percent by 2020 mandate in his first year in office. But Crist, who has since bolted the GOP, never put any muscle behind the plan, and the Republican candidates to replace him have focused on hot-button issues with their party’s base, such as immigration and abortion.
Republican gubernatorial candidates Bill McCollum and Rick Scott have not made extensive proposals on the renewable mandate, even as supporters attempted to push lawmakers to include it in last week’s special session to consider a constitutional ban on offshore oil drilling. McCollum and Scott have only said they would not currently support new offshore oil drilling in Florida waters in the wake of the massive Gulf spill.
Speaking with vocal supporters of the RPS plan last month, Sink cautioned that eventually, a study won’t be enough.
“Ideas are not good if they only stay on a piece of paper. Ideas are not good if you produce a report that ends up on a shelf,” Sink said during a speech at the Clean Energy Congress. “The only ideas that are great ideas are the ideas that we, through effective leaders and good policy, make a reality. I commit to you to make your ideas into reality."
Though she remained hesitant about the top priority of the environmental lobby, the energy plan Sink unveiled Tuesday contained lots of other ideas. Among them are “public-private partnerships with Florida's research universities, industries and entrepreneurs to grow jobs for solar, biofuels and other clean technology industries” and seeking more federal money for clean energy and energy efficiency.
“By expanding public-private partnerships already being fostered through the state's research universities we can grow the clean energy sector and shrink Florida's reliance on fossil fuels,” her campaign said. “Alex Sink will seek opportunities such as the ocean energy collaboration being considered by Florida Atlantic University, the State of Florida and US Department of Energy. She will also push to expand opportunities for small-scale power generation through offering additional tax credits and other incentives for renewables.”
Sink said she would continue programs like the recently-approved bill to allow municipalities to issue bonds for energy efficiency, known as the Property Assessed Clean Energy bill. Differing from Chiles, Sink said she would also pursue expanded use of nuclear energy as governor, which Chiles said last month “there are lot of problems with.”
“There's disposal problems, there's insurance problems, there's siting problems,” Chiles said while touring the Florida Solar Energy Center in Cocoa Beach last month. “Before I would do (more) nuclear in Florida, I'd want to get serious about conservation, because if we can incent the utilities to do conservation we can save enough power that we don't have to build another coal plant. Nuclear's not going to create the jobs for Florida that doing conservation and renewable will."
Sink said after touring a separate solar company in Miami on Tuesday that she would “focus on the next generation of nuclear plants - smaller, modular reactors - that are being developed around the world.” She said also that she would push “smart-grid” technology that would allow electric consumers to better monitor their usage.