In a 3-2 vote, Florida’s Public Service Commission last week approved peak demand and energy conservation goals for utilities that keep customer rates in check. Commissioners also agreed to hold a workshop inviting public input on solar programs that would be cost effective in Florida.
Goals were set using a cost-effectiveness analysis test that allows all ratepayers, participants and nonparticipants, to benefit from the utilities’ conservation programs. Utilities were also directed to show how low-income customers will be made aware of conservation program options. The near term impact should slightly reduce all customer bills, according to a statement from the Commission.
However, the Sun Sentinel featured a different slant on the vote, saying that commissioners "gave their approval for electric utilities to slash energy efficiency goals and end solar rebates to customers after 2015." Those programs include rebates for homeowners to install solar panels on their roofs. Environmentalists and some business leaders decried the move as a step backward, the Sun Sentinel reported, arguing that conservation and renewable energy can reduce the need for new power plants and help in the fight against climate change.
“Energy efficiency is an effective conservation resource in Florida and should play a key role in meeting our state’s future electric energy needs,” said PSC Chairman Art Graham. “The goals we approved today reflect current marketplace conditions and appliance and efficiency standards, and minimize the rate impact for all customers, whether or not they choose to participate. By approving a workshop on solar programs, we hope to develop options that are both feasible and cost-effective for customers.”
In setting the goals, the Commission considers the costs and benefits of conservation programs to customers who choose to participate in a program, as well as those who do not participate, because all customers pay for the programs.
The Sentinel went on to provide utilities' perspective: Florida Power & Light Co. and other utilities insisted their "demand-side management" programs are just one part of their conservation efforts and they remain committed to energy-efficiency. For example, some of their current programs – such as rebates for certain high-efficiency air-conditioners – are no longer needed, because high-efficiency equipment now is standard under new federal rules. FPL also has argued that rebates for solar installations on homes are not cost-effective, because all ratepayers contribute to a program that give millions of dollars yearly to just hundreds of homeowners.