Every four years, Americans turn their eyes to Florida as a crucial swing state in presidential elections. Here at AEE, we also pay attention to the election cycle in the Sunshine State, but this year our eyes are on the state legislature. Two years ago, AEE met with gubernatorial contenders from both parties – including the eventual winner, Gov. Ron DeSantis – to tell them about the opportunity of advanced energy for Florida. This year, AEE spent the heat of a Florida summer holding virtual meetings between member companies and candidates running for the state legislature to show how advanced energy can create jobs for the Florida economy, bring consumers more options – whether for solar power or electric vehicles – and lower the cost of energy for businesses and households.
In meeting with incumbent and new candidates for state legislature, AEE is looking toward the 2021 legislative session with high hopes. In 2020, AEE saw a legislative win with the passage of SB 7018. This bill directs the Florida Department of Transportation, Office of Energy, and Public Service Commission to develop an EV Master Plan for the future. While this EV Master Plan is a great first step, more legislative action is needed in the upcoming session to maximize the benefits of advanced transportation for the Sunshine State.
That’s part of the message delivered in virtual educational meetings with over 40 candidates for Florida state legislature held in July, where AEE and member companies discussed the untapped potential of advanced energy for the Sunshine State and also challenges the industry faces in realizing those opportunities. Participating companies included EVgo and Greenlots.
As demonstrated by AEE’s new Florida Employment Fact Sheet, the advanced energy industry employed more than 182,000 people across Florida at the end of last year, more jobs than in agriculture and real estate in the state, and up 5% over the year before, more than double the state’s overall job growth. With 12,000 of those jobs, solar energy has become a bright new outlet for Floridian workers.
Candidates also heard about demand from commercial and industrial companies for renewable energy in the Sunshine State, and the economic potential in meeting that demand from in-state development. Wood Mackenzie quantified that potential for AEE, in a report that found that meeting corporate renewable energy demand in Florida through 2030 could drive 48,000 jobs created and over $1 billion per year in capital investment.
AEE and our member companies especially stressed the opportunity for electric vehicles and related development in the Sunshine State. With Florida ranked third nationally in EV sales, the state would benefit from maximizing the substantial benefits of EV growth can provide and minimize the obstacles. Chief among these is the deployment of charging infrastructure, so that all Floridians have reliable access to charging. That is where the Master Plan ordered by SB 7018 comes in, along with the recommendations for further legislative action that are expected to come out of the planning process. AEE will be working on that with today’s candidates once they take office in January.
Many of the remaining challenges to EV development are related to market dynamics that intersect with policy, especially on the regulatory side. To address this, we published EVs 101: A Regulatory Plan for America’s Electric Transportation Future, an issue brief that lays out recommendations for public utility regulators. Although this brief was intended for regulators, it has also been useful in AEE’s candidate education series as well. Candidates were shown the benefits of establishing a regulatory framework that encompasses all actors in the EV industry. The Florida Public Service Commission, Florida Department of Transportation, Office of Energy, and the Florida legislature all have parts to play in making sure that timely and effective investment in the EV market takes place.
In these meetings, candidates for the Florida legislature learned a lot about the momentous opportunity of advanced energy in Florida. AEE looks forward to working with these candidates once in office and playing our own role in creating a bright new future in the Sunshine State.