FPL seeks state approval to slash energy-efficiency goals
- Aug 13, 2019 11:11 am GMT
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Aug. 12--Florida homeowners could lose out on discounts for more energy-efficient air-conditioning units and other energy-reduction programs if the regulators allow Florida Power & Light Co. and other state utilities to slash energy-efficiency goals, critics say.
Utilities are proposing energy-reduction goals of "zero" or nearly zero at a hearing that starts Monday before the Florida Public Service Commission in Tallahassee.
Juno Beach-based FPL is proposing a decrease in goals of 99.9 percent, to 1.03 gigawatts from 526 gigawatts in 2014.
The goal would power "less than 10 homes," says Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a Tennessee-based nonprofit that promotes clean energy. "That's laughable" for Florida's largest electric utility with more than 10 million customers, he added.
Florida law mandates that "we should do everything we can to cut waste and utilities have obligation to set goals every five years," Smith said. But with such low goals, utilities are "not seriously coming to the table with anything meaningful," he said.
With the state's major utilities proposing goals at or near zero proposed this year, that could mean fewer energy-efficient programs at Florida utilities that help consumers save money.
FPL and its affiliate contractors, for example, currently offer instant rebates on new air-conditioning systems, and savings on ceiling insulation, water heater and plumbing protection, surge protection, and backup generators and maintenance. Businesses can save by installing more energy-efficient lighting.
"If you have less goals, you have less programs because you don't have to achieve as much energy efficiency," said J.R. Kelly, the Florida Public Counsel, who represents consumers.
But Kelly said that such programs also have to be available to participation from low-income ratepayers who may be renting. "Some programs are only geared to property owners," he said.
The Florida Public Service Commission should "set challenging, but achievable goals," he said.
FPL spokesman Bill Orlove said it will establish its energy-savings programs for customers after the commission sets the efficiency goals. He said FPL plans to continue at least the OnCall program, which gives FPL the ability to temporarily turn off appliances in return for a discount on bills.
Some customers already are seeing energy savings in stricter building codes, and appliance and lighting standards. "We have long believed that empowering our customers to make energy-efficient choices that are right for them is a better approach than charging higher rates to pay for handouts that only some customers can use," Orlove said.
FPL also offers tools, such as home energy surveys and a dashboard that shows a home's energy use, to help customers reduce energy use, he said.
Under law, Florida utilities must submit 10-year energy-efficient goals every five years to the Public Service Commission. Critics say that the commission's methodology in reviewing the goals is out-of-date, resulting in its signing off on smaller and smaller conservation goals.
Florida had the second-worst performance in energy efficiency delivered to consumers in the Southeast region, above only Alabama, according to the Southern Alliance's 2018 Energy Efficiency in the Southeast scorecard.
David Sinclair, chairman of the environmental committee for the League of United Latin American Citizens, which is testifying at the Tallahassee hearing, said utilities have a responsibility to promote energy reduction to customers.
"I'm fed up with the poor record of energy conservation in our state," Sinclair said. "The Public Service Commission really needs to make good decisions and not just favor the welfare of the utilities."
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