With the legislative session approaching, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, the only Democrat holding statewide office in Florida, brought out her legislative agenda at an event in Tampa this week.
Fried was joined by some of the top Democrats in the state including U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., and Charlie Crist, D-Fla. Also attending the media event was state Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, who is running against U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., next year.
In town for the Office of Energy’s Florida Energy and Climate Summit, Fried said the state and nation needed to do more to deal with climate change.
“It’s time as the nation’s third largest state – using the third-most energy – to face the facts on climate change and energy efficiency, and start preparing for the future,” said Fried. “There’s no time to wait. Greenhouse gases are up 400 percent since 1950, and over 900 people to move to Florida every day – we have to change how we use energy. That’s why today, I’ve unveiled an ambitious package of legislation to address greenhouse gas emissions, fund research on climate resilience and sustainability, and help fund energy and water efficiency upgrades on Florida’s farms. I’m thankful for the efforts of true leaders like Congresswoman Castor, Congressman Crist and Representative Good to move our state and nation forward towards our shared climate and energy future.”
Fried’s proposals include:
Greenhouse Gas Reporting System: Creating an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions for state-owned buildings, for the first time at the individual building level. Before greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced, it’s important to determine the state’s own emissions footprint. FDACS will manage this system in coordination with the Florida Department of Management Services and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Farm Renewable and Efficiency Demonstration Program: Based on a successful pilot project in Suwannee County, providing energy and water audits to farms across the state, and offering 80% cost-share reimbursement, up to $25,000, to farms that implement recommended efficiency improvements. Funding is proposed at $5 million over five years.
Climate Adaptation Research Grant Program: Studying the effects of climate change on Florida, and funding research on strategies to mitigate climate change. The competitive grant program through Florida’s state universities is proposed at $250,000.
Agriculture, Energy and Water Grant Program: Funding research and development towards innovative solutions that increase resilience, ensure sustainability, and address the interconnectedness of agriculture, energy, and water issues. Funding is proposed at $10 million over four years.
Clean Energy Research, Development, Demonstration & Deployment Center: Creating a nationally-recognized clean energy research center, to be located at one of Florida’s state universities. Funding is proposed at $20 million over five years, and will leverage additional state and industry funding.
Leases for Floating Solar: With increasing land costs making utility-scale solar costlier, a statutory change will allow the state to lease man-made stormwater management systems to utilities and solar developers for floating solar arrays, while also increasing state revenue.
Fried previously unveiled several other energy and climate-related items in her 2020-21 legislative budget proposal, including:
Low-Income & Infrastructure Studies: Two studies, proposed at $150,000 each, to study the energy burden on low-income communities and how social, economic, and environmental factors impact energy usage, and on infrastructure improvements needed to support renewable energy and battery storage.
Utility Grid Pilot Project: Proposed at $1 million, a utility pilot project to install and test grid storage technologies to demonstrate increased grid efficiency and resiliency, including for electric vehicle charging.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.