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Renewable Energy Makes Economic Sense, Say Business Owners In South Florida

One of three pump stations installed to help protect Miami Beach's Sunset Harbour neighborhood against flooding from storms and king tides.
Kate Stein
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Most business owners in South and Central Florida think renewable energy makes economic sense, according to a recent survey from the Environmental Defense Fund.

The non-profit polled 1,200 business leaders and residents from South Florida and along the I-4 corridor in the central part of the state. Two-thirds of respondents said getting energy from sources like solar and wind is a smart business decision.

"There’s a return on your investment," said David Martin, president of the Terra Group, a Miami-based development company. "You're doing something good for society, and you're also doing something good for your business."

Many of the firm's projects -- including plans for the Miami Beach Convention Center hotel -- include sustainable elements like solar panels and technology to collect and reuse rainwater. 

"We see a lot of opportunities with how we can learn from the past and plan for the future, and plan for how our cities will evolve," Martin said.

Read more: A Million Florida Homes May See Sea-Level Rise Flooding By 2100. Scientists Say: Act Now

That type of forward-thinking development could be financially beneficial, given South Florida's reputation as "ground zero for sea-level rise." Local leaders and insurance experts say potential investors who are worried about rising seas will continue to invest if they see cities making themselves more resilient against flooding and hurricane impacts.

And, since so many coastal cities are going to have to eventually adapt to rising seas, there's a global market for buildings, infrastructure and urban planning techniques to make cities resilient against flood impacts.

"We're looking at ways to hack capitalism," Martin said.

Read more: Is South Florida Doomed By Sea-Level Rise? Experts Say No. In Fact, They're Optimistic

A majority of the people surveyed said they think the business community can lead on using cleaner energy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming and sea-level rise.

Read more: Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise FAQ

That won't offset the sea-level rise that's already underway, but it will make future sea-level rise less severe.

Two-thirds of respondents said they’re taking steps towards becoming more energy efficient in their homes and businesses. More than half reported they're considering using solar energy.

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.