Florida’s landmark storm hardening law that funds critical investments in grid resiliency is one of the most important energy policies at the state-level this year. This week, Energy Fairness had the opportunity to tout the new law at the National Black Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting.
As Harry C. Alford – President of the National Black Chamber of Commerce and Energy Fairness board member – put it, ““Every day the lights are out after a hurricane or other natural disaster the massive financial aftermath to the business community becomes very real very quickly. These are real costs to real businesses. I hope other states follow Florida’s lead in passing such forward-thinking grid hardening legislation to protect small business from the aftershocks of events like Hurricane Irma and Superstorm Sandy.”
Among the best aspects of Florida’s law is its central focus on fairness. While Florida utilities are permitted to assess a monthly storm hardening fee to pay for investments like undergrounding and stronger poles and wires, utilities must prioritize hardening efforts in the areas with the greatest reliability needs.
While only affluent communities could afford undergrounding before, now these infrastructure improvements can be made anywhere in the state, regardless of income. In other words, all Floridians benefit from storm hardening improvements, not just those with the greatest ability to pay.
This focus on fairness is why the legislation received broad bipartisan support from the Legislature and passed with a nearly unanimous vote from Republicans and Democrats.
Like Harry said, power outages from storms cause real economic damage and cost jobs. It was said during the Florida debate that $1 billion in economic damages accrue every day the power is out in just one-third of the state. That means, especially for small businesses, that hourly and seasonal jobs will be lost.
Hardening the grid is the most effective way to improve its resilience. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) specified that power was restored twice as quickly after hurricane Irma as 2005’s hurricane Wilma, despite Irma causing twice as many outages. Strong oversight by the state’s Public Service Commission will ensure Floridians do not bear unreasonable costs.
Storm hardening is essential for Florida consumers and businesses. The critical investments funded by this law will better protect the Sunshine State’s economy and access to affordable and reliable energy.