Florida’s state regulators have approved the previously put forward proposals to completely gut the state’s energy efficiency goals and to end its solar rebate programs by the end of 2015, according to recent reports.
The approval means that the state’s major, investor-owned utility companies have more or less gotten exactly what they wanted — energy efficiency goals will be cut by over 90%, and the state will cease supporting rooftop solar at all.
The decision came, reportedly, after about two hours of debate — with members of the state Public Service Commission voting 3–2 in favor of the proposal that had, ultimately, backing from Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric, and Florida Power & Light.
The two naysayers, Commissioners Lisa Edgar and Julie Brown, stated their disapproval of the drastic altering of the state’s energy policy.
Edgar noted before the vote that “it’s not the direction I want to go in. I am uncomfortable going to the reduced goals. It is a policy and it is a statement, as a state, of what our energy policies are.”
While Brown noted that while there are costs to the programs, they have value: “We have inherent conflicts. We’re supposed to encourage conservation but it must be cost-effective. I think we should be investing in all of it.”
The Tampa Bay Times provides more:
The commissioners did agree to hold workshops on ways to improve solar energy in the Sunshine State after deciding to end current rebate programs administered by the utilities. But that won’t be enough to stave off possible legal challenges to the decision. Environmental groups question whether the PSC might have violated state law with a policy that leaves no energy-efficiency requirements for the utilities.
“It’s completely inconsistent with what the other states are doing,” stated Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which opposed the utility proposals during hearings this summer. “We believe there may have been laws broken today by not setting goals. We as an organization are going to try to find every outlet possible to continue to fight.”
Meanwhile, Florida’s utilities will go into the holidays with their biggest wishes this year, including billions of dollars in new power plants that will come online in the next decade. The PSC, for instance, approved Duke Energy for a $1.5 billion natural gas plant that the utility wanted to replace the shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant that broke during a botched upgrade and maintenance project as well as two coal units the company plans to retire.
The argument used by the utilities to justify the cuts was that the energy efficiency and solar rebate programs weren’t cost-effective (nothing to do with cutting out competition, I’m sure) — as they argue that it’s cheaper for them to produce a kilowatt of electricity than to save it.
But given that many, many other states throughout the country manage to save energy at a cheaper cost than generating it, that argument doesn’t come across as very believable. But then, Florida politics have always been something of a hotbed of corruption and crime — so I’d be surprised if many in the state are all that surprised by the decision.
To my eyes, the situation does just seem to be one of the utilities seeking to hold on to their market by any means available. It seems unlikely that these measures will, over the long-term, have much of an impact on the adoption of rooftop solar in the state, though. Rooftop solar just has too much going for it over the long term. I’d say that you can probably expect to see its growth continue in the state into the foreseeable future, just more slowly or more delayed than it could have with supportive policy.
Image Credit: Solar Florida image by Shutterstock