Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam outlined his vision on the future of energy in Florida before an audience of more than 500 at the recent Florida Energy Summit in Orlando. 

Commissioner Putnam called on stakeholders in Florida’s energy industry, including elected officials, innovators, entrepreneurs and investors, to work together to secure a stable, reliable and diverse energy supply.

The Florida Energy Summit is a three-day event hosted by the Florida Department of Agriculture in Orlando that features discussions on the future of energy among representatives from government, the private sector and the academic world.

Following are excerpts from Commissioner Putnam’s remarks:

“With an abundance of natural resources, the state of Florida is well-positioned to take advantage of the new technologies that emerge from our world class universities.”

“Energy is the lifeblood of our economy and the basis for the upward trajectory of our nation’s quality of life.”

“Less than two percent of electrical power produced in Florida is renewable. While that may not seem to be a significant piece of the overall energy pie, that’s a ten-fold increase over the last 12 years. There has been great progress in the renewable sector in Florida.”

“The challenge moving forward, in terms of growing the energy industry, is that government incentives — or disincentives — play an enormous role in what moves forward and what is held back.”

“Over the last five years, the federal government and the state government have invested $233 million in advancing Florida’s energy industry. The obvious question is: what do we have to show for it.”

“There are more than 20 facilities around the state of Florida producing renewable energy. We have a number of new developments in the works. There are also a number of plans that will never be fully realized.”

“There’s nothing wrong with experiencing both success and failure in a capitalist society. Some of the innovative ideas will work and some will not. What’s important is that we apply what we’ve learned to the development of the next emerging technology.”

Audit government grants

“I’ve asked the Inspector General at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to audit how government grants have been used. Once we have completed that process, I plan to report to you, the Governor, the Legislature and others on the results of Florida’s investments in the industry, including projects that were a success, projects that have not yet reached their full potential and projects that have failed to comply with requirements.”

“Since the Farm to Fuel Summit began six years ago, the world has changed, with gas finds, fracking and shifts in federal carbon policy. Lending has dried up and political support is waning. These changes have had a drastic impact on the energy industry.”

“Now, starting with this Florida Energy Summit, we’re shifting the focus of the Office of Energy from administrating grants to developing an energy policy built on the pillars of stability, reliability and diversity.”

“Under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Office of Energy will provide leadership in developing the state’s comprehensive energy policy, working with Governor Scott, the Public Service Commission and legislative partners.”

“The energy market is the most manipulated market in the world. With every change in leadership, priorities change. Companies cannot invest resources in implementing great ideas when the policy that fosters the development of the industry has an expiration date. We must restore confidence in the energy market by developing and implementing a long-term strategy, one that won’t change with every shift in power.”

“What we need is an “all of the above” strategy.  We need a strategy that will foster the development of all the options. We cannot be in the business of picking winners and losers in the race to explore renewable energy options. Our strategy must support research and development to explore all the options. Our strategy must rely on the market to determine what works and what does not.”

“The upcoming legislative session will be an opportunity for us to work with members of the Legislature and the Governor to pass legislative measures that encourage innovation and incubate new technologies.”

“This session, I will work in partnership with members of the Legislature to push a legislative package that will reduce burdens on businesses that may be keeping them from investing in renewable technology.”

“We’ll work to incentivize growth in the renewable energy industry by continuing tax exemptions on investments in renewable energy production. Many incentives have expired before the industry was ready to utilize them.”

“We’ll work to aggressively promote energy efficiency, in our homes and in the workplace. This should begin with government buildings, identifying ones most in need of these upgrades. Here, we must lead by example, saving taxpayer dollars.”

“We will work with the Legislature to enhance the Public ServiceCommission’s ability to factor in fuel diversity, price stability, reliability and security benefits when considering new opportunities. Depoliticizing this process is crucial to future development.”

“By eliminating barriers, reducing burdens and creating incentives — in a technology-agnostic way — we can have a significant impact on the growth the clean energy industry and increase diversity in the state’s energy supply.”

“The State of Florida will benefit in many ways from our efforts to secure a stable, reliable and diverse supply of energy. We will conserve natural resources and lessen our dependence on foreign sources. Most importantly, especially in this difficult economic environment, growing the energy industry will yield much-needed job opportunities for Floridians.”

Commissioner Putnam also announced that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will partner with the Florida Systems Energy Consortium to host a joint summit next year. This partnership will combine briefings from researchers on emerging technologies with discussions among leaders on the future of energy.