June 10, 2023 12:54 am

TALLAHASSEE — Floridians could see their electric bills boost once again in the subsequent two years so that utility providers can construct infrastructure that captures methane emitted from strong waste and turns it into all-natural gas, beneath a measure finding approval from legislators.

The Senate Neighborhood Affairs Committee gave unanimous approval to SB 1162 on Wednesday, regardless of appeals from residential clients who complained about increasing electric bills. The bill would develop incentives for the improvement of renewable all-natural gas and green hydrogen and permit utility providers to add the price of creating the new technologies to client bills.

Alberto Salvi, a Florida Energy &amp Light client from Pembroke Pines who makes use of a wheelchair, told the committee that he is facing a 22% boost in his utility bill in April but his Social Safety verify is not going up to cover it.

“I’m strongly opposing SB 1162 right now due to the fact of the undue hardship it is going to develop on people like myself, the vulnerable elderly, and people today on fixed earnings,” he stated, adding that he was not opposed to renewable technologies. “But what I am opposing is my utility bill outpacing my price of living and that is going to develop undue hardship for myself, my household, and loved ones and also people that are vulnerable. … I do not see a advantage that is going to enable me.”

The bill permits the Public Service Commission to let electric and all-natural gas public utilities pass on to clients the price of creating renewable all-natural gas facilities and hydrogen fuel infrastructure projects or to acquire these fuels from vendors and recover the fees.

In its evaluation of the bill, the Public Service Commission noted that it currently has the authority to permit utilities to recover the price of employing option fuels to market fuel diversification. It stated: “The plain language of the bill seems to constrain the Commission’s authority to limit fees to be recovered from clients.”

Capturing methane from landfills

The course of action of generating renewable all-natural gas attempts to capture methane gas from decomposing waste in landfills, municipal therapy plants that course of action human waste and agriculture operations that create animal waste.

The renewable all-natural gas is purified and, according to the U.S. Division of Power, the gas is “fully interchangeable with traditional all-natural gas,” while it is extra highly-priced to generate than traditional all-natural gas.

According to the Senate employees evaluation of the bill, if authorized, customer fees would rise due to the fact renewable all-natural gas and hydrogen fuel are extra highly-priced to generate and transport than other sources and “customers of public utilities will spend larger prices than they would otherwise have paid.”

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The employees evaluation notes that when the Public Service Commission sets utility prices, primarily based on a “reasonable” price of return on equity for every utility, it typically does not consist of the price of fuel production. If the measure is authorized, even so, the price of the renewable all-natural gas and hydrogen projects would be added to the price base, resulting in larger client bills and larger utility income.

Ronald Brisé, a lobbyist for Chesapeake Gas, a former legislator and Public Service Commissioner, told the Senate committee that there could be a reduction in prices due to the fact the fuel supply “will be neighborhood.” He cited the Virginia law on which the Florida proposal is modeled, and emphasized it will be up to the Public Service Commission to “make confident there is not an undue influence on customers.”

Having said that, a footnote in the application from the Roanoke Gas Co. to Virginia regulators indicated that there was no assure that prices would decline when it makes use of renewable all-natural gas.

Sen. Lori Berman, a Boynton Beach Democrat, asked the bill sponsor, Sen. Nick DiCeglie, R-St. Petersburg, what the influence of the bill would be to client bills.

“That’s a excellent query,” he answered. “We’re hunting to get away from classic power sources, appropriate. So this bill, when we speak about renewable all-natural gas, hydrogen, this is the future. … As to the query of if this will lead to enhanced prices, we do not know.”

Utility bills higher and going larger

Bradley Marshall, a lawyer with the environmental advocacy group EarthJustice who represents residential clients prior to the Public Service Commission, stated Florida’s electric bills are currently the ninth highest in the nation, and if the fuel was economical for utility providers to use, they would be acquiring it currently.

“Far from advertising renewable power, the only issue this bill would market is additional increases in client bills and utility income,” Marshall stated final week at a meeting of the Property Power, Communications &amp Cybersecurity Subcommittee.

He stated the increases in Florida’s bills are the outcome of a ballooning price base as state regulators permit investor-owned utilities to invest in projects that are “overbuilding our technique.”

Zayne Smith, director of advocacy of AARP Florida, opposed the bill and stated the price of utilities has been increasing for the final 15 years in Florida. She urged legislators to at least cap the total quantity utility providers could pass on to clients and not to permit a return on investment for the fuel. Berman and Sen. Rosalind Osgood, a Tamarac Democrat, stated they would also like to see a cap.

The bill sponsors say all-natural gas is cleaner for the atmosphere than oil and coal by employing a fuel that leads to fewer carbon emissions. Having said that, a lot of climate activists do not agree that renewable all-natural gas is carbon neutral, saying that it in the end greenwashes the gas business.

“We nonetheless have to oppose the bill due to the fact the final issue we require is extra methane, which is basically CO2 on steroids,” stated David Cullen, lobbyist for the Sierra Club of Florida.

Arguing for renewable power

Adam Basford, a lobbyist for Connected Industries of Florida, which represents the state’s biggest utilities, stated the bill was “important to the business enterprise community” due to the fact “in order to move forward, we have to locate new techniques to generate power and renewable techniques like this are going to do that.”

Final year, Connected Industries of Florida was amongst the supporters of a bill written by Florida Energy &amp Light that would have slashed economic incentives for rooftop solar installation and imposed new costs on customers.

Surprising supporters of the bill, DeSantis vetoed the bill, citing price pressures on property owners. “The state of Florida should really not contribute to the economic crunch that our citizens are experiencing.”

It is not identified exactly where the governor will land on the all-natural gas measure this year. Like the bill to restrict residential solar expansion, the proposal has the help of Property and Senate Republican leaders and the governor has buoyed the all-natural gas business by backing yet another bill to prohibit neighborhood governments from restricting gas stoves or furnaces.

For the final decade, state regulators and legislators have permitted the state to boost its reliance on all-natural gas-connected fuels.

The Public Service Commission gave FPL the capability to construct not only new energy plants that use gas from Pennsylvania and Texas but authorized the $three billion Sabal Trail Transmission Pipeline to pump all-natural gas from Central Alabama to Central Florida. And final fall, FPL’s parent corporation, NextEra Power, agreed to acquire a big portfolio of facilities that convert landfill gas to electrical energy, expanding its portfolio of renewable all-natural gas assets.

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