Florida Moves Backwards on Clean EnergyGita Subramony for Zondits, December 12, 2014
Add Florida to the list of states rolling back energy efficiency and renewable energy goals. We saw this happen earlier this year in Indiana and Ohio. Florida’s Public Service Commission approved a proposal in a 3-2 decision to severely diminish the state’s efficiency goals and retire the state’s solar incentive program.
The proposal was backed by Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric, and Florida Power & Light. The utilities claimed that efficiency programs and solar rebates were too costly and would drive consumers’ energy bills upward. However, the Union of Concerned Scientists points out that Florida’s electric rates have remained some of the lowest in the country while customers’ bills are some of the highest. Additionally, Florida definitely has room to grow in terms of energy efficiency – the ACEEE ranked them at 28 in their recent state energy efficiency rankings.
So instead of ramping up initiatives to encourage energy efficiency (where there’s room to grow), the state’s Public Service Commission approves a proposal to cut goals by 90%. To add ironic insult to injury, the Sunshine State will also remove rebates for solar energy systems. Without investing in demand-side management and distributed generation, Florida’s utilities will have to build new power plants. This endeavor is costly; consumers will end up footing the bill, and utilities will profit. This proposal will also hinder Florida’s ability to comply with new EPA regulations on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from coal-fired power plants.
Even though many studies have clearly demonstrated that energy efficiency has positive economic and environmental impacts and is less costly than building new power plants, Florida has chosen not to embrace it. Without a supportive policy infrastructure for clean energy, Florida puts at risk its economic growth, environmental sustainability, and affordable energy prices. Let’s hope they rethink their strategy before too long.