© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Climate change is impacting so much around us: heat, flooding, health, wildlife, housing, and more. WUSF, in collaboration with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, is bringing you stories on how climate change is affecting you.

Nikki Fried Proposes Statewide Energy Conservation Measures

Nikki Fried
Nikki Fried, at podium, with Rep. Charlie Crist and Kathy Castor, left, and State Rep. Margaret Good, right. COURTESY FL DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER SERVICES

Florida's only Democrat elected to statewide office turned her focus Thursday to energy conservation, as  Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried unveiled a list of conservation measures.Fried spoke in Tampa, on the closing day of the state's first climate summit since 2008, when Charlie Crist was governor.

Backed by fellow Democrats Crist, Congresswoman Kathy Castor and Sarasota Representative Margaret Good, Fried said she would ask state lawmakers for a list of measures. They range from reporting greenhouse gas emissions of state buildings to studying the effects of climate change on Florida.

"The message from this summit was loud and clear. We need action now, and we need to be taking it together," she said. "And it needs to be collaborative. We cannot do this alone. We need partners up and down, from our local leaders to our state leaders, to our national leaders."

Fried also proposed creating a clean energy research center at one of Florida's state universities, with funding estimated at $20 million over five years.

Here are some of her proposals:

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 & 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 & 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.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.