How the Inflation Reduction Act will reach Florida’s communities
On Aug. 18, a substantial piece of legislation was signed into law, the Inflation Reduction Act (aka the IRA Bill) or, as President Biden called it: “the biggest step forward on climate ever.” The bill invests $370 billion in spending and tax credits aiming to reduce health costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and raise taxes on corporations. The U.S. is finally taking a legitimate swing in the fight against climate change. Though it didn’t meet original expectations, it’s putting us on course to reduce our own pollution which is good for every living creature on Earth. Ecologist and UNF biology professor Adam Rosenblatt noted, “My hope is it will build momentum for future climate legislation that’s even more aggressive.” Rosenblatt is confident we will see the effects of the new climate legislation in Florida where the biggest threats are extreme heat, increased flooding and more powerful hurricanes. A huge budget for new clean energy initiatives tackle the root of the problem, greenhouse gasses. Though he believes legislation often isn’t enough on its own, leaning more toward extensive societal change, which he says, will make it easier for folks to put their climate-friendly foot forward.
Spending of this size and nature is hard to follow. And unfortunately, Jacksonville’s first chief resilience officer, whose job is to design resilient solutions to solve environmental solutions while providing opportunities for the community, respectfully declined comment on the matter.
Judging by DeSantis’ response to the passing of the legislation—saying that it would be used to target those who the “government doesn’t like”—he’s skeptical. But Logan Cross, chairman of the Northeast Florida chapter of the Sierra Club, stated, “The financial opportunities provided by the legislation will be too enticing to resist even for conservative leaning business leaders and politicians.” Biden has laid out some specific improvements in Florida succeeding the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Florida already has a solar tax credit, which works like a coupon for 30% off your home solar installation, backed and funded by the federal government. JEA uses a “net metering system” meaning customers will only be charged for net usage: the total difference between the electricity the panels produce and the electricity they use. Those who cultivate more electricity than they’ve used will send electricity back into the city’s power grid resulting in a credit toward future bills. Adding solar panels to your house also increases your home’s value, but you won’t see an increase in property tax because solar panels are 100% property tax exempt. In addition to this, solar panels and related equipment are exempt from sales tax in Florida. Jacksonville residents are also able to take out a property assessed clean energy (PACE) loan to pay for their solar panel installation. As mentioned, this is what we already have in place. With the addition of the IRA Bill, Florida residents will receive rebates covering 50-100% of the cost of installing new electric appliances, including super-efficient heat pumps, water heaters, clothes dryers, stoves, and ovens, making millions of low- and moderate-income households eligible for rebates. Floridians will also receive rebates for households to make repairs and improvements in single-family and multi-family homes to increase energy efficiency. Adding onto the already existing solar tax credit, there will be an additional bonus credit of 20% for projects at affordable housing properties and 10% for projects in low-income communities. Biden will also be sending out grants to help state and local governments adopt the latest building energy codes, which would save the average new homeowner in Florida 11.7% on their utility bills—$225 annually.
Jobs, Small Businesses and Electric Vehicles
The Inflation Reduction Act will bring an estimated $62.7 billion of investment in large-scale clean power generation and storage to Florida between now and 2030. These credits include bonuses for businesses that pay a prevailing wage so that Florida workers earn a good paycheck while they build the clean energy future in America. The IRA also works to boost U.S. manufacturing of clean energy and transportation technologies. Small businesses make up 99.8% of all businesses in Florida, with Jacksonville ranked as number two for best small business city in the U.S. The IRA will provide commercial building owners a tax credit up to $5 per square foot to support energy efficiency improvements that will lower utility bills. Tax credits will also be provided upon the purchase of clean trucks and vans for commercial fleets. Middle class Americans will receive upfront discounts on new and used electric vehicles, Florida recently submitted a state plan for using funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to build electric vehicle charging stations along highways.
Rural Opportunities and Resilient Communities
Florida has 47,500 farms, and in 2017, Duval was the sixth highest-valued agriculture producer, raking in about $9 million. Electric co-ops will for the first time be eligible for direct-pay clean energy tax credits through the IRA, and this legislation dedicates investments for rural electric cooperatives, nonprofit electric utilities owned by its members/customers to provide electricity to areas of rural America that investor-owned utilities refused to serve due to cost concerns. In Florida, tens of thousands of people live in affordable housing units that are eligible for upgrades like flood-proofing and storm resistance, as well as clean energy and electrification. A new Neighborhood Access and Equity Grant Program includes support for transportation projects and planning to protect against flooding and extreme heat. The Inflation Reduction Act also invests in programs focused on preventing wildfires and tree planting projects that help protect communities from extreme heat.
To continue to push these initiatives into our communities, we must vote for political candidates who take climate issues seriously and aren’t taking money from the fossil fuel industry, especially at the local and state levels. We can also support smaller, local campaigns like Renew Jax, that seeks renewable energy and the decommissioning of JEA’s Northside plant. Spearheaded by Logan Cross,, Renew Jax seeks to leverage the position of the JEA Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) Stakeholder Group, a public process where planners work with other interested parties to identify and prepare energy options tocreate a timetable to decommission the Northside plant that has notoriously high emissions (and sits on fragile marshlands near the entrance to the St. Johns River) and commit to 100% renewable energy by 2050 — 30% by 2030. When asked what the community can do, Cross explained, “Residents who support a transition from fossil fuel dependence and a reduction in Jacksonville’s contribution to global warming should let regional decision makers know you support such a transition. These decision-makers include JEA’s board of directors, JEA leaders, City Council Members, and the mayor. They can do this by sending messages through mail, email, and text messages. They can also express their support for clean energy alternatives through letters to the editor, guest columnists, and blog posts.”
Ten years ago, residents would need to make it clear they are willing to accept higher electricity rates to pay for the transition to clean energy sources, but this is no longer the case,” Cross said. “They just need to let decision-makers know it is important for the city and its municipal energy utility to commit to transitioning to clean energy sources.”