TALLAHASSEE — Florida utilities are avoiding steps they could take to achieve greater energy efficiency, thus leaving millions of dollars on the table that would otherwise benefit consumers.
In hearings before the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) this week, the
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and the Natural Resources Defense
Council (NRDC) are urging utilities to ramp up development of low-cost conservation programs and dial down their pursuit of high-cost generation plants.
“Weʼre calling on the PSC to be very mindful of what a difficult time this is in our economy for homeowners, businesses and industry,” said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). “We must increase our energy efficiency and conservation now, more than ever. Itʼs the most cost-effective way we have to buffer consumers against future increases to their monthly bills.”
Under the Florida Energy and Efficiency Conservation Act (FEECA), the PSC is holding hearings in Tallahassee this week to review the 10-year plans of seven utilities. The act was amended in 2008 by the Florida Legislature to encourage utilities to make conservation programs more broadly available.
The utilities have balked, however, essentially asserting that the way they have been operating is good enough. In fact, the stateʼs largest utility, Florida Power & Light
(FP&L), is proposing to reduce its conservation goal by 30 percent.
However, analysis by an expert hired by the PSC staff, as well as by SACE and the
NRDC, clearly shows that the utilities could attain energy efficiency and conservation objectives, as measured in gigawatt-hours, that are five to 10 times higher than what the utilities propose.
In addition to FP&L, the utilities include Progress Energy, Tampa Electric Company, Gulf
Power Company, Florida Public Utilities Company, Orlando Utilities Commission, and the Jacksonville Electric Authority.
Leon Jacobs, a former PSC chairman and now an attorney for the NRDC and SACE, on
Monday said the utilities in the proceeding “have devalued energy efficiency” and used tactics to assess energy efficiency in a way that has “arbitrarily eliminated the most cost effective measures.”
The result, Jacobs said, is that Florida consumers are losing many millions of dollars in savings at the same time as they are “paying extraordinary portions of their income for power.” In addition, he said, the approach taken by the utilities encourages them to generate more power and build more plants in the future.
PSC records already show, he said, “that energy efficiency gains of at least 1 percent are achievable and we recommend that these be adopted while the utilities are ordered by the PSC to correct the deficiencies in their analysis.”
Specifically, the NRDC and SACE are calling upon the PSC to require utilities to generate energy efficiency and conservation savings equal to 1 percent of their sales within the next 3-4 years and for the regulatory agency also to move decisively to adopt energy efficiency goals that are stronger and more consumer-oriented than the inadequate goals proposed by the utilities.
Both organizations, along with Floridians, place a high value on a clean and healthy environment and believe in maximizing utility investments in cost-effective energy efficiency by the cleanest and cheapest means.
Energy efficiency also is the most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants associated with power generation. It can strengthen the economy and improve energy security at the same time as it reduces costs for consumers.