IT’S BEEN ONE YEAR since the Florida Legislature transferred the responsibilities of the state’s Energy Office to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and I have been working closely with industry and legislative leaders to create a sustainable energy future for Florida. As soon as the department took over, we began assessing all the grant programs, and within 100 days, we issued more than 12,000 solar rebates. I also ordered a comprehensive audit to evaluate each grant program administered by the Energy Office, the first comprehensive audit since the office’s creation in 1975. As a result of the audit, we saved taxpayers $2.45 million by uncovering fraud and identifying grant recipients who were beginning bankruptcy proceedings.
Building on the department’s previous Farm to Fuel Summits, we expanded our reach by hosting the Florida Energy Summit, bringing together key stakeholders in the energy industry, entrepreneurs, academics, and elected officials to exchange ideas about the future of Florida energy policy. After the initial Florida Energy Summit in 2011, I worked with members of the Florida Legislature to develop a policy that would foster growth within the energy industry and would utilize tax credits versus grants to begin building our energy future. The first energy bill in more than four years passed this year and went into effect July 1. The law focuses on supporting business investments, creating jobs, and improving the stability and reliability of the energy network. This legislation holds organizations and recipients accountable, and only those who demonstrate marketable progress will continue to have the support of the state Energy Office. The bill does not pick “winners and losers” in the energy field and instead allows the market to determine what energy sources are successful. The Energy Office will track how the tax credits are utilized and the amount of private investment associated with the tax credit, furthering accountability of taxpayer dollars.
The energy market is the most manipulated market in the world, as every two or four years a new political administration outlines new priorities and offers new incentives to advance the energy industry. With the industry’s ever-changing nature, we must be flexible so that we are in a position to take advantage of what is available, what is affordable, and what makes sense for Florida. We need an all-of-the-above approach to energy policy that enforces a stable, reliable, and diverse supply of energy. The time is now to explore new uses of alternative energy sources, such as using natural gas for vehicles.
We have made tremendous progress in the last year developing a secure energy future for Florida, and we must restore confidence in the energy market by developing and implementing a long-term strategy.
column by COMMISSIONER ADAM H. PUTNAM
Adam H. Putnam of Bartow is commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.