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January 07, 2014

Can The Sunshine State Build Solar Momentum?

It’s not a moment too soon for climate action and clean energy in Florida. As global temperatures rise, so does sea level. And, with experts predicting a sea level rise of anywhere from two and a half to six feet by the end of this century, the Sunshine State’s ample coastline is vulnerable to one the most devastating manifestations of climate disruption -- putting nearly two out of every five Floridians at risk.

Clean energy solutions that don’t emit the toxic carbon pollution fuelling the climate crisis are on the rise and spurring economic growth across the country. Electricity generation from wind and solar power has doubled over the last four years, sales of electric vehicles are up almost 450% in 2013, and tens of thousands of jobs have been created – all by pursuing clean energy that fights back against the climate crisis.

All of those eyes that see the promise of climate action should turn to Florida. The potential there is boundless - after all, they call it the Sunshine State for a reason. But, sadly, its been unrealized by recent leaders.

Right now, Florida is the number 18 producer of solar energy in the country down from 12th – but it is also ranked third in the country for solar potential, according to recent reporting by Politifact. Florida’s installed solar capacity is behind states considerably less-sunny, like North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Why the gap? One reason is that the state is one of just 13 that doesn’t have a renewable portfolio standard policy  or formal goals for clean energy solutions like solar.

Some in Florida are stepping up to try and change that. Former Governor Charlie Crist hit the nail on the head during a November 18 appearance on MSNBC’s the Ed Show when asked what’d he do to create jobs in Florida.

“Alternative energy, I mean I would start there. We’re the Sunshine State, and we’re hardly doing any solar energy production. And we should be the global leader in solar energy. Also in wind,” said Crist.

“Florida is a beautiful place to visit. A lot of people want to come here, and thank God they are. But the only way they keep coming is if we keep her beautiful and take care of her,” Crist added.

Crist has the right idea, taking an example from states across the nation that are amping up on solar and wind jobs and transitioning from dirty fuels that pump out carbon pollution and only make our climate crisis worse.

During his previous term as governor, Crist pushed hard to achieve a renewable portfolio standard -- only to be thwarted by the state legislature.

“To the extent that Florida has put solar capacity to use, most of it occurred when Crist was governor,” Politifact noted. “As it happens, when Crist was governor, he directed the Florida Public Service Commission to develop a state renewable portfolio standard policy, with a goal of 20 percent renewable energy production by 2020.”

Crist’s outspoken support is a good sign that policy may be back on the radar again soon -- - and it’s even better for those in Florida and across the country who know that climate action is needed now to protect a healthy future for our economy and our families.

--Cindy Carr and Lauren Lantry, Sierra Club Media Team


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