This year the University of Florida will consider whether, and under what terms, to renegotiate its contract with Duke (formerly Progress) Energy, which expires at the end of 2014.
One of Duke's largest customers, UF currently spends approximately $38 million on electricity and $4 million for steam energy annually.
UF must certainly pursue cost-effective energy services. Yet we hope that the University will also consider its commitments to sustainability and goal of carbon neutrality by 2025, as well as local economies and its impact on the wider community as it makes its decisions.
A demonstration of the University's sustainability commitments should include a strong emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy, with an immediate phasing out of the dirtiest and most destructive sources of energy.
There are significant opportunities for Duke or other service providers to meet UF's goal of clean energy in an economical manner. UF's current energy choices not only harm the planet; they also hurt our economy and waste taxpayer dollars.
Under its current arrangement, much of the tens of millions of dollars that UF spends on energy annually is sucked out of our state's economy to pay for non-local fuel sources. Conversely, investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency would not only strengthen our local economy, but would reduce UF's carbon footprint and the harm that the University's energy choices inflict upon other communities.
UF faces a huge opportunity to renegotiate with Duke or other service providers for a clean energy future. The ramifications of this decision will be felt for many years to come. We hope that UF will choose wisely.