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Utility-backed renewable energy legislation returns in the Senate

By | 02.28.11 | 2:57 pm

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, has introduced a bill similar to a measure that passed the House last year but died in the Senate, which would have allowed private utilities to charge customers for renewable power.

Bennett’s bill would allow private utilities to pass on to customers the cost of increasing their mix of renewable sources, up to an amount equal to 2 percent of their revenues in 2011 and 2012, with the limit gradually rising to 4 percent by 2014.

The bill would cover various forms of renewable energy, including solar and biomass.

In an interview last year, FPL project management director Buck Martinez said such a “cost recovery” measure would eventually allow the utility to install hundreds of megawatts of solar panels, which would help jump-start a solar industry in Florida.

Now, when the company builds solar installations, he said the company imports many of its parts from Asia, and much of its expertise from places like California and Germany. Large-scale solar companies would need to know the demand will last over the long term before setting up shop in Florida.

Another bill introduced by Bennett would create a fund to pay for energy rebates and allow independent producers — such as businesses or homeowners that install solar panels on their roofs — to sell renewable power at rates equal to those charged by utilities to recovery their costs. That measure, he said, is open to tweaks.

One measure favors concentrated, utility-owned solar generation, while the other favors small-scale, “distributed” power. Some renewable energy advocates favor a combination of the two approaches.

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