Public Interest Environmental Conference at the University of Florida
February 13 - 14, 2015
Gainesville, FL, USA
Why does Florida not have more solar power? That’s the wrong question to ask, according to PURC director Mark Jamison. Speaking at the Public Interest Environmental Conference at the University of Florida, Dr. Jamison explained that the key question is whether the system Florida has for determining how electricity is provided in the state gives the customers what they want economically. He explained three imperatives to keep in mind. First, any approach for distributed energy resources (DER) has to make engineering sense, taking into consideration that a public utility provides more than just kwhs: The kwhs must be available at the flip of a switch, must be stable, must be at the right voltage, etc. Second, a DER system must make financial sense, i.e., good ideas should be financially viable and bad ideas should not. He explained that net metering is like requiring Publix to purchase home grown tomatoes from anyone at any time at the same price at which the store sells its own tomatoes. This approach does not produce economic results. Lastly, he encouraged the audience to keep in mind that people are systematically overconfident, meaning that most beliefs people hold about what should be (e.g., the amount of solar power that should be used) is likely to be wrong even though people will feel confident that they are right. In discussions with the audience, Dr. Jamison explained that an effective system aligns the authority to make a decision (e.g., what fuel should be used to produce electricity), the accountability for the decision (i.e., the gains or losses from the decision being good or bad), and the information needed to make the decision. The conference was held at the University of Florida Levin College of Law on February 13-14, 2015.