Director's Message: Energy Too Costly for Florida

While gasoline prices have recently dropped, electric costs are skyrocketing!  Gasoline for all of the 90s was about $1 a gallon, oil $18 a barrel, natural gas was $2 for a thousand cubic feet and residential electricity in Florida was 8 cents a kWh.  Gasoline at its peak last year was over $4, oil over $140 a barrel, and natural gas over $11 for a thousand cubic feet and residential electricity in Florida was 12 cents a kWh.  In the last several months, the price of electricity to some consumers in Florida has reached 15 cents per kWh.  The average Florida customer who used 1,250 kWh of electricity per month paid $120 in 2005 and $152 per month in 2008.  In 2009, the average customer will be paying more than $160.  So by doing nothing, the price has gone up more than $40 per month (33%) since 2005.  Some customers will be paying $188 per month, a $68 per month increase (50%) since 2005!

Alternative energy is called alternative, until it is cheaper, but cheaper than what? – electricity out of the wall at 12 cents yesterday, 15 cents today, 18 cents tomorrow?  Are you aware that people in the U.S. pay different amounts for electricity?  The average residential retail price of electricity in the U.S. was 10.6 cents per kWh in 2007.  Florida was 11.2 cents, most southern states were about 9 cents, WV 7 cents, UT 8 cents, NY and CT about 18 cents, and CA and NJ 15 cents.  So, states that burn coal have the cheapest electricity rates. Places like Utah and West Virginia burn their own coal, so even though they get all the pollution and the greenhouse gasses, at least they get to keep all their money, unlike Florida which ships more than $25 billion out of state to purchase fuel.  Florida has already been paying more for cleaner burning fossil fuels than the Southern states to our north.  We are now paying more for natural gas than we are for coal, and that price increase is more than what is being suggested to add to our electric bills for solar energy.

New Jersey has more solar than Florida because homeowners in NJ have a Renewable Portfolio Standard, and fees (collected into a Public Benefit Fund) are used to incentivize the homeowner for solar on their roof.  If such a fund collected $1.50 on your electric bill in Florida, we could have the equivalent of California’s Million Solar Roofs Program.  Clearly $1.50 is less than the $40 a month cost of doing nothing.  While solar water heating is cost effective today, solar electricity (photovoltaics) without a subsidy is not cost effective today, but the subsidy is still less than the cost of “accelerated cost recovery” for nuclear power.  What about the jobs?  These jobs will not be in China and India, they will be done by your neighbor.  Vote Solar estimates that more than 3,800 megawatts (MW) of solar could be added by 2020 and with it approximately 85,500 new jobs in Florida. What a great way to love your neighbor.

Jim Fenton, Director
Florida Solar Energy Center

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11 thoughts on “Director's Message: Energy Too Costly for Florida

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  • April 16, 2009 at 12:22 am

    Take all the subsidies off coal, natural gas and nuclear and you will clearly see how solar is the lowest cost. Be sure to include passive solar, active solar and phantom solar. Solar thermal hot water is a real low cost solution, solar PV is a little more but don’t forget it makes no pollution and doesn’t use water like a fossil fuels do.

    When you also look at the health care costs from the air pollution is really starts to pay. Just check all the mercury in the fish that can no longer be eaten.

    Renewables are the best most sustainable solution no matter where you are located of what the subsides are.

  • April 18, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    My husbnd and I are retiring and moving to a smaller home. We are interested in any state/federal incentives for solar energy, as it seems to be the answer to our budget. However, it is not cost effective for our budget, as well. We need to know exactly what is involved. Your kind response to this inquiry will be greatly appreciated.

  • May 12, 2009 at 3:10 pm


    The solar industry, as this article portrays, is facing a potential challenge. If the state rebate was not to be renewed by the end of 2010, I am not sure what kind of turn the industry will take.

    On the other side, you still have solar domestic hot water and solar pool heating which both give a good “bang for the buck”.

    To know exactly “what is involved” is more complicated that it might seem. Feel free to visit your website and you can put in a call and talk to any of our Solar specialists and they will be able to walk you through everything you need to know and see if they can find a solution for your solar needs.


  • June 10, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Solar panels need to be considered but is the maintenence cost of them unreliable especially in the global financial climate? Will people opt for them?

  • July 2, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    The biggest challenge here is the energy companies themselves. For a very long time, the incentive is to centralize energy production, even when it’s more expensive than distributed sourcing. That’s particularly true with solar and wind power. A recent Fast Company article illustrates this, and points to some of the difficulties in changing over. Seems to me that that New Jersey is clearly ahead of the pack, as are all states with incentives for local energy production. But the battle between the current energy producers and the rest of us is just starting out. Guess who has the most clout in congressional lobbying?

  • July 8, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Florida makes it very hard to any renewable energy business to offer quality products for homeowners. We are part of the USA Solar Store Group headquarters in Vermont.In New England and most of the states, one can be a retailer, do site visits for homeowners for solar thermal and PV, hire out licensed electricians and plumbers to install the systems for homeowners. This is a local financial stimulus. It gives jobs to electricians, plumbers and roofers and it enables a small business like mine to offer energy independence and full service of a plethora renewable energy products to homeowners. However, I am looking at closing down and moving out of the state after attending a solar thermal workshop at fsec and finding out that this is called subcontracting without a license. We offer conservation and energy efficient products and education as well to the homeowner because that is also important.
    After having got my own denial for my rebate from Charlie Crist for my solar hot water system, I can see how rough things are here. Businesses are interested in renewables either to look “green” or to really save some money but to just offer the average homeowner a chance to make their own decisions is almost impossible.
    Once Florida stops paving over the trees for more big boxes and cookie cutters, perhaps we will realize, albeit probably too late that we lived in a tropical paradise and it was worth saving.

  • October 8, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    April, you make a good point about moving out of the state. The state of Florida has criminalized being a contractor, fingerprints and all. It is no accident that the states with the highest construction fraud are those with the most stringent licensing laws. It’s called job security. I read that California recently reported that they have in just one year given contractor’s license to over 27,000 convicted criminals. Thanks guys. Those are the kind of folks I want working on my mother’s house! I am sure this news makes us all feel much better that you’re on the job screening those pesky contractors for us.
    In 1972 I designed and built a solar home for an executive in western Illinois. It was a moderate success, energy consumption was reduced about 50%. In an effort to gain more information on solar technology I made a trip a few years later to Florida to visit a federal solar research facility which at that time was located near the Kennedy Space Center. I will never forget the scene. We were standing in a fenced enclosure surrounded with several solar panels with the bureaucrat that ran the place, a Mr. Johnson. He showing me a few of the panels, then stopped and looked me in straight in the eye told me to go home and forget about building with solar it would never be a practical technology. I looked at him and asked what he was doing here. It’s a job, he replied.
    The next day I had a meeting with of a professor and solar pioneer Erich Farber. He was much more encouraging. He made a strong point about the vast difference between the way a bureaucrat looks at a problem and the way an engineer or business man looks at a problem. A bureaucrat will see a problem as a lever to set up a profitable bureaucracy where he can hire friends and family. As a result though they will spend millions of tax payer’s money and make a big show, they will never solve the original problem as that would put them out of a job. A business person or engineer on the other hand will make a career out of efficiently solving problems. They are efficient because they’re not spending free money. Bureaucrats gain power from creating crises, and never solving any underlying problem, while engineers and business people make a living by efficiently solving problems.
    I believe it was George Washington that observed that imperfect men cannot govern well therefore the best governance comes from the least government. Corrupt bureaucrats are not the way out of America’s problems. I have decided to go ahead and ignore the idiots. Screw the license crap. The nation’s contractors and working people need to stand and fight. Americans need to reassert there God given freedom. America’s salvation rests not on more parasitic bureaucrats, but on the shoulders of its creative hardworking free people.

  • December 16, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    With the cost of energy increasing, solar panels and wind turbines are a great way of producing energy. Although they come with a price tag once bought you can start creating your own energy. Not only can these products help reduce your energy bills they can also reduce your carbon footprint, helping the environment also. Greener homes are the future and things such as loft/wall insulation and double glazing can also make your home more energy efficient.

  • August 3, 2010 at 6:58 am

    All swimming pool heating should be via solar panels to save masses of energy.

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