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Senate clean energy bill includes nuclear

Sen. Jim King's energy and utilities committee won't take up the proposal until Tuesday morning, but lobbyists for companies including Gulf Power and FPL hurried to the Capitol this morning to dissect the committee's just-released proposal for new "clean energy" standards in Florida.

SB 1154 would require that 20 percent of energy in the Sunshine State come from renewable and "clean" (i.e. new nuclear) sources by the year 2020. Twenty-five percent could come from nuclear energy (FPL and Progress have nuclear plants and are planning new ones). Half would be reserved for wind and solar energy (FPL is also building solar plants), and the rest could come from biomass, solid waste and other renewable energy sources.

The proposal includes a consumer protection to limit to 2 percent any rate hikes associated with new costs of meeting the 20 by 2020 requirement. It also encourages the use of natural gas in Florida by allowing a company like Peoples Gas to hook up new lines to areas still under development, where current demand is low but future demand is anticipated.

Governor Charlie Crist has made "20 by 2020" a priority for this legislative session, but achieving that goal is a thorny matter that has varied groups including environmentalists, big utilities and even Big Sugar and paper companies fighting for their own interests in the renewable energy arena.

FPL and Progress, for example, support the inclusion of nuclear. But paper companies and Big Sugar would probably be happier with a bill that excluded nuclear because it might force the big utilities to buy some of their 20 percent renewable energy from the paper companies or Big Sugar - which can turn their waste into renewable energy.

King's committee takes up the bill at 9 a.m. The House has yet to release its proposal, but word is they have been waiting to see the Senate version before moving.