As a life-long lover of words, I enjoyed reading a PalmBeachPost.com article titled State’s green-energy future down to one choice: Renewable or clean?. It was a well-written piece that should help people understand just how important the battle over certain words can be. In this specific case, the difference between one word and the other may result in the movement of billions of dollars.
In 2007, Governor Charlie Christ signed an executive order directing the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to develop a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 2009. The current expectation is that the standard will set timetables and milestones that the state’s utility companies will need to meet on a path that will result in 20% of the state’s electricity coming from “renewable” resources. Florida already has a law that currently defines “renewable” energy as “biomass, geothermal, solar or wind energy and power from ocean tides and currents, hydroelectric and agricultural products”.
FPL (my late father’s employer for 35 years) seems to have conceded that power plants using uranium fuels do not meet that definition, so they are lobbying to get a word change in the executive order from “renewable” to “clean”.
“To be clear, we have advocated the inclusion of new nuclear power as part of a Clean Energy Portfolio Standard, and have not argued that nuclear power is a renewable source of energy,” FPL spokesman Mayco Villafana wrote in an e-mail response to questions from The Palm Beach Post.
The forces that want to build solar arrays, wind turbines, and biomass digesters are starting to raise a ruckus – they want to keep their set aside pure without competing with nuclear power. According to the article, FPL wants to include nuclear because it already generates about 19% of its electricity using emission free nuclear plants, so it would not have to do much at all to meet the standard. Simply following through with its already planned expansion of Turkey Point would do the trick.
There will be plenty of opposition. It will come from vendors that want a law that serves as a forcing function for sales of their inferior energy supply solutions.
“The fight really begins in the legislature,” said Michael Dobson, president and CEO of the Florida Renewable Energy Producers Association. “FPL has relationships and our members have relationships there. The legislature is going to be a donnybrook.”
It will also come from other major utilities like Tampa Electric Company (TECO) that currently depend almost entirely on coal and natural gas and would have to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to meet the standard, putting them at a competitive disadvantage if FPL can claim to already meet the standard. The lawyers will get into the discussion; no matter who wins the issue will generate billable hours at a prodigious rate.
The governor, a man who has expressed his support for nuclear power as an emission free source of reliable electricity that can enable other economic development, indicated that he may choose a different path from moving away from his requested Renewable Portfolio Standard. Instead of changing that to be a “Clean Energy Portfolio Standard”, he seems to be interested in taking the advice of scientists and engineers who argue that fission is, indeed, renewable in that it can replenish itself through the use of breeder and converter reactors to last as long as humans will need it.
Last week, he said he supports including nuclear in either a clean or renewable energy plan.
“We have to defer to the scientists on that point,” Crist said. “But there are great indications about renewability.”