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Guest Commentary: Governor denies clean energy funds to Floridians

By BOB MOORE - Co-chair of the Sanibel-Captiva Renewable Energy Working Group | Sep 15, 2023

Bob Moore

The Federal Office of State and Community Energy Programs recently released its recommendations for state administrators of Home Energy Rebate Programs that were authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed by Congress in 2022. Under the programs, citizens can receive rebates to help with the purchase of energy efficient appliances and home improvements that increase energy efficiency. These rebates can be significant for homeowners interested in saving on energy bills and reducing their carbon footprint. For example, rebates on energy efficient heat pump air conditioners could be as high as $8,000 or $1,750 for a heat pump hot water heater. Many other appliances and home energy improvements are also covered.

However, there is a catch for Florida residents. The federal rebate programs are designed to be administered through block grants to states. Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis turned down the money available to Florida residents. As a result, those of us living in Florida will not be able to receive any of the home energy rebates. That decision deprived Floridians of over $350 million that could have gone to help homeowners and renters to reduce their home energy bills, reduce pollution and support the transition to cleaner sources of energy. Florida was one of only six states to turn down the federal money. The result is that money that would have been available to Florida residents will now be distributed to residents of other states.

In a summer where Floridians are experiencing record heat waves as a result of climate change and communities across the state are struggling to recover from recent hurricanes made worse by warmer waters and rising seas, it seems inconceivable that an elected leader would deprive his constituents of assistance to become more resilient and reduce future risks. While the governor and state Legislature are finally taking steps to address adaptation to the effects of climate change, there is a chronic denial of the need to mitigate future risk by reducing energy consumption and transitioning to energy sources that do not emit climate warming pollution. That means our state is more vulnerable to the future risks of climate change. It also means we are missing out on billions of dollars of investments that are going to states like Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and others to build the clean energy economy of the future.

For those interested in making their homes and businesses more resilient and sustainable, it is important to note that the home energy rebates work in tandem with federal tax credits that allow taxpayers to deduct from their taxes as much as 30% of the cost of energy efficiency and renewable energy investments made on their homes. Nonprofits are also eligible for the 30% benefit through a direct payment program. Fortunately, the federal tax credits are still available to Floridians, but the absence of home energy rebates makes purchases more expensive for Floridians, especially lower income residents.

Bob Moore is co-chair of the Sanibel-Captiva Renewable Energy Working Group. It is a coalition of city, business, environmental and academic groups focused on promoting green energy practices. He serves as a member of the SanCap Citizens for a Resilient Future. Moore is co-founder of the Lee County Chapter of Climate Reality and a trained member of the Climate Reality Project Leadership Corps.