ORLANDO AND PENSACOLA — By an overwhelming margin, student governments at the University of Central Florida and the University of West Florida each passed resolutions calling for their school to generate 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
Environment Florida Research and Policy Center launched the 100% Renewable Campus campaign at UWF in the spring of 2020. In the fall, they joined forces with Florida PIRG Campus Action to kick off the campaign at UCF and five other campuses. Since then, students have worked to build and demonstrate broad public support for a complete transition to clean energy. More than 50 interns and 100 volunteers, collected more than 800 petition signatures urging their university presidents to put their institutions on a path to powering all operations with clean, renewable energy.
The UWF resolution calls for this transition to be made no later than 2050, with all electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030.
“As one of the top schools in Northwest Florida, UWF should create an example for both the state of Florida and the entire country,” said Jaylen McGee, senior at UWF and the campaign coordinator. “We are excited to work with the campus administration and have UWF be the first domino to fall as many Florida colleges and universities will follow if we make the first effort to go 100% renewable.”
The UCF resolution has a more ambitious timeline of transitioning to 100% renewable energy community-wide by 2040. Its resolution calls on the university to support HB 283: State Renewable Energy Goals. Authored by state Rep. Anna Eskamani, who not only attended UCF for her undergraduate education but is currently a Ph.D. student at the university, the bill would require the state of Florida to 100 percent renewable electricity by the year 2040.
“These students are such rock stars, and I am proud of them for taking a leadership role in pushing our state towards a clean energy future,” said Rep. Eskamani. “Florida has a lot to gain if we take action on climate change and a lot to lose if we don’t. There is so much work, but I know with young people at the helm, anything is possible!”
Now that both SGA resolutions have passed, they will be sent to President Cartwright and President Saunders’s desks. Students are planning to continue working with faculty, staff, and administrators to officially make their school the first university in the state to commit to 100 percent renewable energy.
“It has been so refreshing to go from feeling helpless in my own fight against climate change to being part of this coalition of students, faculty, and staff that are passionate about taking action,” said Youstina Estefan, a grassroots intern with Florida PIRG and a UCF sophomore. “The overwhelming support is a reminder to me and everyone involved that the next generation of leaders is ready to take broad and swift action to protect our environment and the future.”
These developments come after the city of Orlando became the third city to commit to repowering itself with 100 percent renewable energy. Pensacola is committed to powering all city-owned facilities with 100% renewable electricity by 2040. Students are also working with environmental organizations, including Healthy Gulf and 350 Pensacola, to encourage Pensacola to make a bigger community-wide commitment.
Environment Florida Research & Policy Center is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to protecting Florida’s air, water, and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help people make their voices heard in local, state, and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.
PIRG Campus Action is a national training and advocacy program started by the Student PIRGs and is based on a model that has been helping students make positive change for almost 50 years. PIRG Campus Action student clubs work with professional staff at colleges and universities to make sure our peers have the skills, opportunities, and training they need to create a better, more sustainable future for all of us. Our network on over 100 campuses provides the training, professional support, and resources students need to tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy, feed the hungry, and more.