U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Mary Landrieu have introduced a resolution and bill pressing the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall Chinese-made drywall and temporarily ban imports of the building material, as worries about the possible effects of the tainted product continue to grow. The bill would ask the Consumer Product Safety Commission to impose the ban until it can create federal drywall safety standards. It is clear that independent, third-party testing and certification has extensive value in the marketplace, especially for products such as drywall, solar water heating systems and solar electrical (photovoltaic) systems. Independent, third-party certification provides not only protection for consumers, but also much needed consumer confidence. Even more important, third-party certification provides protection to reputable manufacturers, ensuring that lower quality products, often from foreign markets, do not compete head-to-head with Florida and U.S. products unless they meet the same standards. The state of Florida had the foresight to protect Florida in 1976 through Florida’s Solar Energy Standards Act of 1976 (§377.705 F.S.) which requires the Florida Solar Energy Center to certify that “all solar energy systems manufactured or sold in the state…meet the standards established by the center and…display accepted results of approved performance tests in a manner prescribed by the center.”
Governor Crist’s climate change agenda, many states passing “real renewable energy portfolio standards,” and skyrocketing electric prices have led to strong interest in solar hot water heating. Residential electricity in Florida moved from 8 cents to 10 cents and then to 12 cents a kWh in January 2006. In the last several months, the price of electricity to some consumers in Florida has reached 15 cents a 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 they may be paying more than $160. So, by doing nothing, the price has gone up $40 per month (33%) since 2005!
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.
The Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida is accepting applications for the 2008 Florida Energy Achievement Award and the Florida Utility Energy Achievement Award. The two awards recognize significant achievements in the efficient utilization of energy, energy conservation, energy education or renewable energy in facilities or programs.
A Florida utility and a Florida company, organization or individual that demonstrate statewide leadership and significant accomplishments in sustainability and energy savings will be honored. Last year’s recipient was Ann C. Wilkie, associate professor at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). She was recognized for her extensive work in alternative energy – creating bio-energy from animal waste – and her leadership in promoting awareness and understanding of renewable energy and sustainable practices. Previous award winners also include Walt Disney World and Sarasota County Government. There were no applicants last year for the Florida Utility Energy Achievement Award.
Results recognized through the awards could include reducing energy use, water conservation, renewable energy generation, the use of alternative fuel vehicles and renovations or retrofits with energy-saving measures. Other results could include reducing pollution, innovative energy-saving performance contracts or utility energy services contracts, having a major impact on public education regarding energy issues or playing a prominent role in educating or disseminating information related to energy conservation.
Applications for the 2008 awards must be received at the Florida Solar Energy Center by January 16, 2009.