By Michele Drucker
Last Earth Day, Miami-Dade County Public Schools unanimously adopted a resolution for 100% clean energy by 2030. In support of that resolution, the board commissioned a 30-member task force comprised of diverse stakeholders, including sustainability experts, architects, land use attorneys, school district staff, parents and union representatives. The task force concluded that taking on the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is limited without a strong utility partner.
NextEra Energy is the parent company of Florida Power & Light (FPL), the state’s largest power company. Across the globe, NextEra is hailed as a leader in renewable energy for practices that seem out of line with its actions in the Sunshine State.
It’s hard not to get “FOMO” — fear of missing out — when you see NextEra partnering with five colleges in Maine to create a new solar energy facility that provides financially feasible access to clean energy while reducing their operating costs.
Instead of wrestling with budgets to retain high-quality teachers, Miami-Dade schools — the fourth largest school district in the U.S. and the fourth-largest energy consumer in the county — could similarly be saving money while also safeguarding the future of our more than 350,000 students from the impacts of a changing climate in our highly vulnerable state.
FPL provides a shocking 90% of NextEra’s impressive returns to its investors. Yet the utility continues to stalwartly oppose such solutions as power purchase agreements (PPAs,) which would allow for solar investment and cost savings for municipalities, universities and other tax-exempt entities for whom leasing is infeasible. Florida is one of the only states that does not allow for PPAs, which could save taxpayers millions.
In trying to keep cool, Floridians use more electricity per capita than most states. Still, we don’t benefit from NextEra’s leadership in energy efficiency. Rather, Florida ranks at the bottom of the list for efficiency programs.
While Next Era was hailed in S&P Global Platts 2020 Energy Transition Award for leadership in environmental, social and governance, FPL was seeking approval of new natural gas facilities that will make Florida more dependent on energy from fossil fuels even as costs rise, squeezing Florida residents.
We need the Florida Legislature and the Public Service Commission to stop taking a back seat to utility profits and instead require power companies to serve Florida’s students, teachers and families first.
Michele Drucker is Environmental Chair for the Miami Dade County Council PTA/PTSA and served as Vice-Chair of the 100% Clean Energy by 2030 Taskforce for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.