The state of Florida is home to a diverse and growing population faced with an enormous set of challenges both new and old.
Floridians are grappling with unprecedented loss of life and livelihoods in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, climate change introduces new challenges, environmental shocks, and chronic stressors that threaten our health and security. Florida is experiencing more frequent and severe hurricanes, floods, and extreme heat episodes; waves of migration and displacement; and crumbling opportunities at core sectors of the state’s economy. These compounding challenges set the stage for Florida to lead, not only respond, in the face of climate change.
People-centered policy must start with the energy system. Florida state legislators have an opportunity to redefine the way residents power their homes and businesses, maintain resilient buildings, and travel throughout the state. A just, equitable, and inclusive transition to clean energy has the potential to create high-quality jobs and wealth-building opportunities while increasing adaptive capacity at the individual, household, and community levels. Low-wealth communities and communities of color are at the frontlines of historic and ongoing injustices created and maintained by the energy system (“frontline communities”). Transformative climate action must seek to minimize planet-warming pollution in a way that provides fair access to the benefits of accessible, sustainable, and affordable energy services. Those responsible for the costs and burdens created by the energy system must be held accountable for Floridians to achieve a just energy future.
Florida residents, including legislators and policy experts, know that failure to prepare or respond to a crisis is anything but leadership. Without targeted, locally-relevant and unified advocacy for just climate and energy action, low wealth communities and communities of color are poised to bear an unfair share of climate impacts and energy burdens. We cannot afford to replicate the harms caused by the fossil fuel-based energy system when our lives and livelihoods are on the table. This can and must be a defining opportunity for the state to create conditions for all residents to benefit from health, security, and resilience.
In this document, residents, community organizers, policy experts, and advocates striving for clean energy outline our policy vision. When we achieve a just transition in Florida, community members most impacted by the energy system take on leadership roles. They create new opportunities for people to build wealth, support healthier homes and workplaces, and improve climate resilience by building local energy systems powered by renewable energy.
The imperative is clear. Florida policymakers must act at a scale commensurate with the challenge and in accordance with these core principles:
The state of Florida and its people have too much at stake to rely on adaptation alone as a solution to the climate crisis. In order to avoid devastating impacts to our homes and communities, we must also achieve a just transition to a clean energy economy. We have the technology, the resources and the imperative to create an energy grid in this state which is both clean and renewable. We define “clean energy” as energy which does not release harmful greenhouse gases through its generation process, minimizes impacts on air, water, biodiversity, and natural resources, and does not produce long-lived toxic waste-products. Renewable energy comes from sources which can renew within the space of a human lifetime.
We take a system-wide approach to determining which forms of energy are clean and renewable. The impacts of a fuel or energy source should be traced back to point of origin to determine if they are truly clean and renewable. Our definition of clean and renewable energy excludes all fossil fuels (including gas), nuclear, and all forms of combustion.
The transition to a 100% renewable energy economy must spring from a foundation of environmental justice and overturn legacies of environmental racism. Clean energy policy must prioritize the needs of the people and communities most impacted by pollution, climate change and related harms. This includes ensuring accessibility, affordability, reliability, due process, sustainability, inter- and intragenerational equity, transparency, accountability, and producer responsibility.
Inclusivity and community autonomy
Advocates for clean energy and climate justice must develop their priorities and solutions to the climate crisis through accessible and inclusive public processes. This must facilitate and encourage leadership from frontline communities to exercise fair decision-making power in the design and implementation of clean energy policy. Project proposals must provide community members with complete and accessible information to shape outcomes that may affect their lives, livelihoods, or communities.
A. Lawmakers must establish statewide clean-energy goals to catalyze economic, social, and environmental benefits of transition for all. Specifically, the Legislature or Public Service Commission (PSC) should establish a Renewable Portfolio Standard for 75% clean energy by 2030 and 100% by 2035.
- The clean energy standard must seek to advance the goals of clean air and environmental justice while addressing climate change. These co-benefits must be embedded in policy design and prioritized in implementation. Electricity companies must increase the share of clean and renewable power while meeting standards for curbing hazardous air pollution and its disproportionate impacts on low-wealth communities and communities of color.
- Lawmakers must support policies and programs that encourage all ownership models to increase penetration of solar energy infrastructure. This includes rooftop and community solar for Florida families and businesses as well as utility-scale solar where necessary for commercial, industrial, and municipal government customers.
- Lawmakers must redefine renewable energy to exclude energy developed through burning of waste, which produces environmental pollution that disproportionately harms frontline communities.
B. Lawmakers must support financing tools like Purchase Power Agreements (PPAs) for solar energy infrastructure sited on a residential or commercial customer’s property.
- Small business owners and landlords should be granted an accessible and equitable pathway to benefit from such financing tools. Specifically, this must ensure that renters will reap a fair share of cost savings accrued from PPAs.
- Municipalities, universities, schools, healthcare facilities, emergency operation centers, and community-based organizations must also be enabled to employ PPAs for small-scale solar.
C. Lawmakers must protect the Net Metering Rule (NEM) and allow aggregate net metering across systems serving universities, school districts, and local governments to promote distributed rooftop solar.
- The PSC should consider health and safety benefits into their valuation of solar, specifically related to NEM policies.
- Lawmakers must design community energy policies in consultation with community-based organizations. Policy goals must include attracting low-to-moderate-income consumers without imposing high energy burdens and incentivizing community-scale, rather than utility-scale, development.
- The PSC must facilitate community energy development with measures that allow for communities to participate in the design of renewable energy projects, including siting and scale of energy development, and allow communities to reap economic benefits from the projects through ownership.
D. The PSC must establish transparent and meaningfully accessible stakeholder-engaged integrated resource planning processes.
- Utility site plans must include an assessment of equity considerations under a mandate to address and overturn the legacies of environmental racism.
- At the least, all participants must be provided high-quality objective information on the matters to be discussed. This must be vetted by a third-party that is not organizationally, financially, or otherwise affiliated with stakeholding corporate or political interests; worded in accessible terms; and translated to participants’ prefered language.
- Regulators must put clean, renewable energy on equal footing with other energy sources.
E. Lawmakers must invest to increase the number of community and emergency centers, including schools and public buildings, equipped with solar plus storage. This must prioritize community centers in frontline communities and schools serving a majority of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
- Lawmakers must invest in preparing local emergency management professionals and community leaders to use such buildings as storm shelters or community power hubs in times of need.
F. Lawmakers and the Public Service Commission must expedite retirement of coal-fired power plants and prohibit any new construction of gas-fired power plants while making sure such retirements do not increase energy burden for households and small businesses.
G. Lawmakers must prohibit the drilling or exploration for, or production of, coal, gas, oil or other petroleum products on the lands and waters of the state. Specifically,the legislature must institute a state-wide ban on conventional oil drilling with restorative justice measures to support the health of impacted human and non-human life.
A. Lawmakers and the Public Service Commission (PSC) must require utilities to help families and businesses cut energy waste by ensuring that at least one percent of electricity sales are met through energy efficiency programs annually through 2030.
- If electric utilities companies cannot, or will not, achieve those levels, the state must establish a third party administrator to implement customer energy efficiency programs. This entity must be in regular consultation with membership-based organizations in frontline communities.
- The Florida Public Service Commission must abandon the outdated Rate Impact Measure (RIM) and two-year payback screen cost benefit analysis for determining the cost-effectiveness of efficiency improvements.The PSC should replace the RIM test with one of the modern alternatives utilized by other states.
B. Lawmakers and the PSC must ensure that all clean and renewable energy development prioritizes energy efficiency to maximize sustainability and affordability of essential energy services throughout the transition from fossil fuel sources.
C. Lawmakers and the PSC must ensure that low-income households have access to energy efficiency programs that generate significant cost savings and provide long-term relief for high energy burdens.
- Energy efficiency programs must be expanded to service all residential customers paying 6% or more of the household’s income on energy services..
- Utilities must be required to invest in cultural humility training, translation and interpretation services, and communications methods at the discretion of membership-based organizations in low-wealth communities.
D. Lawmakers must prioritize retrofits and energy efficiency improvements at the household and building level to reduce energy burden for ratepayers.
- Legislators must fund municipal and non-profit weatherization programs administered by or in consultation with community-based organizations. Local relevance and participation in all aspects of program design, governance, and implementation are essential to meet the needs of community members.
A. Lawmakers must set electrification goals which seek to maximize carbon and co-pollutant emissions reductions.
B. Public officials must engage in community-engaged planning processes, in partnership with community-based and membership-based organizations in low-wealth communities and communities of color which have historically been harmed by transportation policies and implementation strategies.
- Community partners must have decision-making authority throughout electric transit planning, policy design, and implementation.
- Community partners must have decision-making and oversight authority over consumer, municipal, and state-level education and outreach efforts to support implementation work and reduce vehicle miles traveled.
C. Lawmakers must invest in culturally appropriate and locally relevant programs to increase electric and zero-emissions vehicle adoption, reduce vehicle miles traveled, and promote use of multimodal and public transit infrastructure.
D. The Legislature must establish a Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) program which requires all automakers in Florida to progressively increase the proportion of units sold which do not generate heat-trapping carbon or other harmful co-pollutants.
- Policymakers may adopt the ZEV programs being implemented in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
- The ZEV program must be developed in consultation with municipalities and community-based organizations, with specific attention on the distinct mobility needs of rural, suburban, and urban area residents.
E. Electric vehicle charging infrastructure must be made accessible, safely located in close proximity to areas identified at the discretion of local municipalities and their constituencies. Financial costs associated with installation and maintenance of such infrastructure must not impose a higher energy burden on households or small businesses.
F. Lawmakers must invest in and expand public transit that is affordable, accessible, reliable, and resilient to the impacts of climate change.
- Public transit projects must be developed in consultation with municipalities and community-based organizations, with specific attention on the unique needs of seniors, youth, and people with disabilities to ensure fair accessibility.
G. Public officials designing multimodal and public transit projects must seek to connect people and neighborhoods with vital community services such as healthcare facilities, appropriate and sustainable employment opportunities, recreational areas with public greenspace, and affordable grocers providing fresh food options.
- Such connections within and between neighborhoods and the type of infrastructure to be relied upon must be identified in consultation with community-based and membership-based organizations, particularly in low-wealth communities and communities of color.
H. Lawmakers must prioritize and actively promote multiple modes of non-polluting transportation beyond single-occupancy vehicles. Policy goals must include reducing vehicle miles traveled and increasing quality of life through transit mobility. This may include electric buses, electric trolleys, light rail, ZEV ride-shares, cycling or creating more walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.
- Lawmakers must invest in greenways and bike paths that provide convenient, safe, and accessible routes for pedestrians and cyclists to travel locally.
I. Lawmakers and the PSC must reject the imposition of any additional cost burden that would unfairly or unreasonably impact low-wealth communities or transit riders. Residents, businesses, and municipal governments must be held responsible for a fair and reasonable share of the cost for acquiring electric vehicles or utilizing non-polluting transit options.
J. Funding priorities must exclude new highway construction and prioritize maintenance of existing highways as well as options that support public and environmental health.
- Federal funds must be used to repair existing highways before expanding or building new ones, focusing resources on keeping roads and bridges in a state of good repair and tackling the existing backlog of transportation infrastructure repair needs.
- The Department of Transportation should be tasked with ensuring that a significant percentage of federal aid is used for repair and rehabilitation, setting measurable goals for repairing all roads in poor condition, and publicly reporting progress towards those goals on an annual basis.
Climate Justice Planning by All State Agencies
A. Conduct a statewide greenhouse gas inventory and climate impacts assessment to establish a baseline against which progress on adaptation and mitigation efforts can be measured.
B. Incorporate social, environmental, and economic impacts of climate change in cost, impact, and vulnerability assessments with specific metrics intended to capture the equity and justice implications of policies and programs in the context of climate change.
C. Assess the near and long-term impacts of climate change and related harms on people made more vulnerable by historic and ongoing injustices.
- Develop and apply a Climate Equity Screen, which consists of a set of principles and policies that guide agency decision-making to ensure that equity and climate outcomes are not only measured by prioritized when determining progress.
- Map the spatial and historical relationships between disadvantaged communities to develop and track metrics of progress, while enforcing a sense of shared accountability between agencies to promulgate regulations in line with the equity screen and meaningful public engagement.
D. Establish adaptation and mitigation goals, including clean energy and energy efficiency, which align with a state-wide emissions reduction goal.
- Mandate that emission reduction requirements also address co-pollutants, including criteria pollutants and fine particulate matter;
- Mandate that cost burden for policies and programs not disproportionately burden low-wealth communities, communities of color, or communities at the frontlines of climate change and related harms;
- Prioritize reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and co-pollutants in presently and historically disadvantaged communities.
E. Relevant state agencies must perform an iterative review to assess how growth management and sprawl may disproportionately impact communities of color, rural, and low-income communities (e.g, agricultural and residential land use, housing security and affordability, public health implications) in consultation with community-based organizations throughout the state.
F. Relevant agencies must invite and facilitate meaningful involvement of community-based and membership-based organizations in planning and siting processes for public and utility-scale clean and renewable energy projects, including related infrastructure for transmission, storage, or charging.
G. Utilities have announced plans to develop up to 1900 Megawatts of commercial scale solar photovoltaic capacity by the year 2030. This buildout will take up approximately 200 square miles of land, and create many new energy-generating facilities across the state. These facilities offer a cleaner and more renewable form of energy generation, but the development of a new solar facility is not without impact. If irresponsibly, commercial solar can impact biodiversity, disrupt historic land-use patterns, and conflict with the desires and preferences of frontline communities, particularly in mixed rural/residential areas. Lawmakers should enact policies to ensure that local communities have input on the location and development of new solar infrastructure, and new solar development is prioritized in d . Lawmakers should also adopt incentives and requirements to prioritize the development of new solar on rooftops and in brownfields, landfills, and otherwise unusable open space as opposed to potentially productive agricultural land. Relevant agencies must establish standards for the siting of public and utility-scale clean and renewable energy facilities that require avoiding residential neighborhoods, areas of historical and/or cultural importance, ecological significance, and agricultural capacity. Such standards must be developed in consultation with community-based organizations, particularly those working alongside people historically burdened or impacted by energy infrastructure.
Climate Justice in Adaptation and Mitigation
A. Lawmakers should establish a clean energy and green infrastructure fund which operationalizes the “polluter pays principle” to facilitate a just and equitable transition to clean and renewable energy technologies. This must be developed in partnership with municipal governments and community-based organizations. This must include a fair and transparent project review process with evaluation metrics that offer qualitative and quantitative measures of social, environmental, and economic implications. This should be administered by a regional collaborative or coalition of community-based organizations seeking to advance just and equitable opportunities for adaptation, mitigation, resiliency, and clean energy infrastructure.
Economic Justice in the Transition to Clean Energy
A. The transition to a clean energy economy will be a major source of new skilled employment. Many of the jobs associated with the clean energy transition are highly technical, offer competitive wages, and cannot be outsourced. Lawmakers, school-board members, and utility providers should prioritize efforts to train this growing workforce. Training opportunities should be made available in an equitable manner which prioritizes frontline communities, historically disadvantaged communities, and those excluded from the workforce.
Relevant agencies must include labor and training standards whenever possible, including all public work and that which benefits from subsidies or other public funds. This should include a living minimum wage level, apprenticeship utilization, protections for outdoor workers, workforce development and training standards.