The Florida Public Service Commission voted today to gut the state’s energy efficiency goals by more than 90 percent for electric utilities (Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power Company, and Tampa Electric Company).
The PSC accepted the staff’s recommendation and sided with the utility’s belief that building additional power capacity is more beneficial to state ratepayers instead of spending money on energy efficiency programs.
However, this is not true. Research shows that Florida is spending 40 percent more on energy than the average American and energy efficiency is the least expensive way for utilities to decrease bills for ratepayers. The PSC’s decision today protects the utility industry’s outdated business model of passing billions of dollars of new power plant infrastructure costs onto consumers. For example, the PSC recently approved Duke Energy’s $1.5 billion 1,640 megawatt proposed natural gas plant in Citrus County.
The decision also comes as Florida is working on how to comply with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which will be finalized in 2016. The vote to weaken efficiency goals for utilities eliminates one of EPA’s “building blocks” in the plan. The EPA found that increasing energy efficiency in Florida, along with improving power plant efficiency and adding more renewable energy generation, the state could reduce its carbon intensity rate by 38 percent by 2030 from 2012 levels.
The PSC also voted to end a solar rebate program that was requiring utility companies to offer rebates. The program was open to all residents and businesses that installed solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems. Schools and low-income households were also eligible for the rebates in the program.
Rachel Maddow reported on the developments in Florida last week saying, “Florida has declared war on the sun, even as it still wants to be known as the Sunshine State. This past week, very quietly just before Thanksgiving, Florida incredibly decided to try to kill solar power in the state of Florida. They voted to kill entirely the rebate program in the state for installing solar panels.”
In Florida, the governor appoints the five public utility commissioners who are then confirmed by the Senate. The commissioners serve four-year terms and can be reappointed. This system creates conflict of interests because the commissioners, who are supposed to be making decisions in the best interest of state ratepayers, are instead job dependent on politicians that receive millions in campaign contributions from the electric utility companies.
A 2014 report by Integrity Florida finds that the four electric utility companies registered one lobbyist for every two state legislators each legislative session between 2007 and 2013. Additionally, the utility companies contributed more than $18 million to state-level candidates between 2004 and 2012; and, lobbying expenditures totaled more than $12 million between 2007 and 2013.