Florida editorial writers urge strong state efficiency goals

This blog was written by John D. Wilson, former Deputy Director for Regulatory Policy at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | November 5, 2009 | Energy Efficiency, Utilities

Next week, a former editorial board editor is one of five Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) members who will direct Florida’s major utilities to pursue energy efficiency efforts over the next five years. Will we get more of the same, as the utilities and the Commission staff suggest, or will Florida take a step towards rejoining the nation’s leaders on energy efficiency?

Will Commissioner Klement join his (former) brethren at four FIVE (update below) major newspapers who have joined us in asking for strong energy efficiency standards?

The Public Service Commission can show its “new management” mettle by establishing new energy efficiency standards. The current standards used by the utilities under the PSC’s supervision are far too inadequate and are an impediment to establishing a “green economy.”  — Sun Sentinel editorial, November 4, 2009

The final decision is due on Tuesday, November 10 – after a two-week delay to allow a new commissioner to review the material.

Study after study emphasizes that energy efficiency is the most cost-effective solution, cutting consumer bills over the long term. Depending on circumstances, we may need to “spend a little more now to save more later.” Even so, there are real obstacles to taking advantage of this critical energy resource. SACE agrees with the national consensus that strong utility leadership on energy efficiency is one of the best ways to overcome these obstacles.

For that reason, we are very disappointed that most of Florida’s largest utilities are putting a priority on high priced nuclear power plants – and the high-value investment returns they offer.

The easiest, cheapest way to save energy is to use less of it.  Floridians get that, already. . . . Why doesn’t the staff at the Public Service Commission?  . . . Equally important, [it’s] to reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.  No state’s economy is more threatened by rising sea levels than the Sunshine State with its heavy reliance on tourism and coastal development. . . .

Opinion: Florida PSC should lead in promoting conservation, renewable power sources.  —Miami Herald editorial, October 26, 2009

Several Florida utilities have demonstrated leadership on energy efficiency, and their efforts have ensured that Florida is the “dim bulb in a otherwise efficiency-dark Southeast.” We’ve recognized the leadership of Florida’s largest utilities on peak reduction programs, while dismissing their claims to national leadership on energy efficiency overall.

Municipal electric services, including those in Tallahassee, Gainesville and Lakeland, are innovative in actively encouraging customers to be smart about their energy use. This also reduces the costs of utility production for the cities.

Yet the state’s largest utilities are dragging their feet when it comes to encouraging energy efficiency. . . . Now 17 states require utilities to save at least 1 percent of their energy demand through efficiency, which is a minimal but reasonable standard for Florida. The state’s largest utilities are saving just 0.2 percent or less, and the PSC staff is not pushing for anything more than a few pilot projects. . . .

The public is ready to find ways to reduce its personal energy use; the Legislature has dictated stronger efficiency standards must be implemented; much of the nation is already ahead of Florida. The ball is in the PSC’s court on Tuesday, and it is time to put these modest new standards in play.  — Tallahassee Democrat editorial, October 25, 2009

Over two years ago, Governor Charlie Crist announced bold plans to take “immediate action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.” These plans included a mandate to slash emissions from the state’s electric utilities. Energy efficiency is simply the only strategy to achieve these goals that actually saves energy customers money. Now we await the decision as to whether the Florida Public Service Commission will leave

energy conservation targets in Florida to the whim of the very utilities in the business of selling electricity. If the staff were so intent on making a mockery of conservation, there was no need to waste so much time and effort. The staff proposal would move Florida in the opposite direction of every state looking to curb energy consumption, cut emissions of global-warming greenhouse gases and capitalize on new jobs and investment created by clean-energy technologies. The PSC should reject the staff proposal when it meets Tuesday and put a serious plan on the table.

A weak energy plan – St. Petersburg Times editorial, October 23, 2009

It is the responsibility of the Florida Public Service Commission to use energy efficiency to ensure that Florida enjoys the “long-term benefit to forestalling new plants, burning less fossil fuel, emitting less and promoting a regard for conservation.” Enough said.

Update: Apparently not enough said! The Orlando Sentinel added to the chorus:

Twenty-five states have approved more aggressive efficiency goals, some up to 20 times more than the PSC staff has recommended. That alone should shame the Sunshine State.

The staff recommendation flies in the face of an initiative approved by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Crist that requires the commission to adopt efficiency goals that encourage lower energy use. To date the utilities — and apparently some in the PSC — haven’t gotten the memo.

Officials at Florida Power & Light Co., which has sought an even lower standard than the miniscule one proposed by the PSC staff, already have gone on record saying that any significant increase over their number could trigger rate hikes. A drop in sales, FP&L says, means less money to offset operating costs.

FP&L already has serious image problems with some of its customers. Imagine trying to sell them on the notion that energy conservation only results in higher electric bills.

Really, a fantastic editorial. Let’s hope the Florida Public Service Commission “gets it.” FP&L apparently still doesn’t.

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