Florida in search of an energy policy

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida is one of a handful of states without a comprehensive energy policy, but conferences this week and next hope to put the state on a path to energy independence.

Florida's nickname is the Sunshine State, but it does nothing to incentivize solar energy.

Wayne Wallace, a Largo solar dealer, traveled to the state Capitol from Largo this past week to push for an energy policy.

"We are one of maybe 12 states left who do not have comprehensive energy plan," he said.

Wallace wasn't alone. Delegates from across Florida came to a Clean Energy Congress. Their goal: to push and embarrass policy makers into doing more to ween the state from oil.

"There's not a whole lot of successing in the conversion to clean energy," said Frank Knapp, of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce. "It's a struggle that we see in trying to move states to doing more solar, wind and hydro."

When Florida offered solar rebates years ago, the program was so popular it ran out of money. Participants had to settle for 50 cents on every dollar they were promised.

The state Energy Office was moved following the rebate debacle. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam got control of the office. He's holding an energy summit that begins Monday.

"And it's my intention to have an energy bill this year," he said. "We moved the ball forward last year legislatively in terms of the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel."

While solar gets no incentives, lawmakers did decide to start paying part of the cost for businesses to convert their fleets to natural gas. Companies can receive up to $25,000 for each of 10 vehicles they convert.

In addition to rebates, the state also exempted companies converting to natural gas from fuel taxes for the next five years.

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