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Published on March 4th, 2018 | by Danny Parker

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What About Florida? Energy Efficiency, Solar Energy, & Regulatory Backwardness In The Sunshine State — Part 10

March 4th, 2018 by  


If you missed them, see the first 9 articles in this 10-article series here.

I’ll close the series by offering two small informational gifts to my patient readers. One is my thoughts on how the Florida Public Service Commission might provide the right signals to help us to make better progress in the Sunshine State. After all, the utilities are simply doing what they can to maximize their profits within the rules of being a regulated monopoly. The rules are the problem.

Where Florida utilities stand relative to solar energy per customer against other utilities in the Southeast.

How are the utilities in the Southeast doing relative to solar? Don’t be fooled by the hype. Duke Energy in the Carolinas is actually the leader (solar watts per customer) and Georgia is ahead of the Sunshine State. We remain behind. (See table on right from SACE.)

Still, at least Florida utilities are heading in the right direction, so let’s hope the state energy leadership will help things go more strongly in the right direction.

My second gift is a short synopsis of what you can do for your own Florida home to really cut its energy use based on what we have learned in the Phased Deep Retrofit (PDR) project. Yes, the things to do are likely at odds with normal equipment (“what’s on the truck”) and standard practices (“A heat pump water heater? That’s not the way we’ve always done it.”), but pursued collectively, these options are almost guaranteed to slash your electrical consumption. As one of my long-term colleagues is fond of saying: “to have a difference, you have to make a difference.”

Otherwise, you’re going to get what you’ve been getting. So, have fun changing things!

How Could the Florida Public Service Commission Help Guide Florida’s Energy Future?

To establish leadership on solar energy in the Southeast, Florida will have to dramatically increase its share of distributed solar on its six million homes

If you’ve patiently read through the preceding material over the last weeks, by now you’ve realized that Florida’s IOU utilities are behaving rationally. They’re doing everything they can within the existing regulations to maximize profits for their firm and shareholders. Not only that, they’ve managed to manipulate the governmental body appointed to regulate them.

Yet, what benefits IOU shareholders are not the foremost concern of Florida’s consumers. Florida’s households don’t really care about very low electric rates. Instead, they do care about low monthly electric bills. And the current focus on rates rather than the electric bills themselves is misplaced. They also care about meaningful progress on resilience of the electricity supply to critical facilities after hurricanes.

We’ve made the point that PV solar home electrical generation is uniquely useful to Florida households when paired with electrical storage. Homes installing solar under net metering should be incentivized to add electrical storage. This will harden against power outages and provide utilities with expanding opportunities to develop distributed electrical storage that is important to Florida energy future.

Finally, the PSC, while well intended, should develop funding mechanisms and support research activities which will keep Florida on the leading edge of technology solutions. These include energy efficiency, electric generation, and storage that are uniquely suited for the state’s cooling dominated climate. Given the state’s long coastlines and risk to hurricanes and flooding, these future challenges should be met.

The current members of the Florida Public Service Commission

With the current trajectory, the current utilities’ fixation on preserving the old business model may backfire and in some sense the PSC should save the IOUs from themselves. Here are a series of ideas based on what we’ve developed in this series:

    • Alter the process for determining cost effectiveness of efficiency measures:
      • If Rate Impact Measure (RIM) test is used as the primary screening measure, discount loss of revenue estimates by the equity position of the utility. (Example is IOU is provided a 10.5% ROR, the loss of revenue estimates for screened measures would be reduced in the calculations by 10.5% or multiplied by 0.895.) The rationale behind this change is given in Part 4 of the series: “How RIM Can Disadvantage Efficiency Measures.”
      • In DSM measure screening evaluation, credit site related efficiency and renewable energy measures on distribution network losses (typically around 7–10%).
      • Change measure two-year-payback-screening-prohibition to a single year.
    • Recommend that PSC allow a 10.5% higher rate of return for utility investments in DSM related efficiency, distributed renewable energy projects and energy storage for utilities than for any other capital outlay. This would be similar to equity earnings in new generation facilities. This should include utility investments now accommodated in the Florida ECCR (Energy Conservation Cost Recovery). Require monitoring to verify savings and power production from measures installed.
    • Consider a lost revenue adjustment mechanism similar to that successfully used in North Carolina that has altered the efficiency programs being offered by Duke Energy there.
    • Establish a modest Public Benefits Fund (PBF) – perhaps 0.001/kWh– within utility charges so that storm resiliency and equity issues can be addressed and Florida-specific research promoted. Allocate a portion of the funds specifically to helping low-income customers and renters to install efficiency measures and participate in “sponsored” solar generation.
  • Within Public Benefits Fund require utilities to provide solar along with electrical storage for storm-related resiliency for the following facilities: medical clinics, nursing homes, hurricane shelters and community centers.
    • Within Public Benefits Fund, provide pass-through audits for all Florida utility customers, (investor owned or municipal utilities) along with proven savings measures with costs shared with homeowners: LED lighting, smart thermostats and hot water tank wraps.
  • Direct Florida utilities to develop incentive plans with the public benefits fund or the ECCR provisions to encourage home electrical storage or an auxiliary power supply with systems that install solar PV systems that will be eligible for net metering. This will help to make Florida housing more resilient in wake of hurricanes while providing a potential means for utilities to develop plans for distributed electrical storage. Provide a financial incentive to utilities to achieve increasing saturation of such systems.
  • Consider a financial reward mechanism for utilities that achieve significant Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) reductions.
  • Consider hiring additional analytical staff for the Florida PSC to aid in the very complex assessments the organization must evaluate. Right now, the utilities have much more analytical horsepower.

Building Code Related

  • For the Florida building code, change the baseline building for evaluating code compliance to one that includes a Heat Pump Water Heater (HPWH) located in an interior utility room since they significantly cut water heating and air conditioning loads in a unique fashion. Prescriptive residential code compliance should also include HPWH for new construction.
  • Require a HERS index score be evaluated for all new construction. Also, provide both a HERS score and request for seller-voluntarily-released 12-month billing records be provided at the time of refinance or resale of existing homes.

And that’s it folks. … Now info showing how you can really cut the energy use of your Florida household. Not based on hype or supposition, but from strong data within our monitoring projects.

I Want to Reduce the Energy Use of my Florida Home:

Using the Lessons from the Phased Deep Retrofit Project

Low Cost Measures (All done together can often save 1,360 kWh or $150 per year)

  • Change all lighting to high-efficiency LED and CFL lighting substituting for incandescent (change all in home)
    • Saves $80 a year directly and reduces interior heat and cuts air conditioning
  • Add external hot water tank wrap
    • Double foil insulation wrap
  • Change shower fixtures with high flows1
    • Tank wrap and changing to lower flow showerheads can save up to $40 per year.
  • Cut back on pool pump hours if greater than six per day.2
    • Two hours less per day is $80 lower for the year
    • Often push back from pool maintenance services so variable speed pool pump is a better solution
  • Use Kill-a-Watt meter to measure refrigerator/freezer energy use (plug frig in for a day)
    • If greater than 3.5 kWh per day, purchase new more efficient unit.
    • Standard new refrigerator or freezers use only about 2 kWh per day
  • Install smart or connected thermostats such as Nest or Ecobee
    • Measured to reduce space cooling and heating by about 9%
      • Savings: 540 kWh/yr or $60/yr
      • Much larger savings if seasonal occupant or house unoccupied in daytime
  • Install “smart power strips” to reduce power from devices plugged in but not doing anything
    • Difficult to measure potential and set up, but can save substantial power if turning off several items not in use (e.g., turn off printer, monitor, and speakers in home office)
    • Savings highly variable depending on the load and how long it is shed daily.

Measured daily electricity savings of hot water energy with a heat pump water heater (HPWH) thirty days before and after retrofit.

Advanced retrofit measures (along with shallow measures saves up to 40% of use)

In addition to the shallow measures above, if you are really serious about reducing your monthly energy consumption, you can install these measures that were tested below. Taken together, we found them to reduce total annual electricity consumption by 38% for an average of 7,070 kWh worth about $780/year.

  • Very high-efficiency air conditioners and heat pumps (SEER 17 or greater)
    • Replace if your AC system is older than ten years
    • Test and seal duct system at same time unit is replaced
    • Saves 50% of space cooling and heating (3,000 kWh/yr) or $330/yr

Or:

  • Supplemental ductless mini-split heat pumps to drop central AC load
    • Option vs. replacing existing heat pump.
    • Reduces consumption by about 40% for heating and cooling or 2,400 kWh/yr ($260).
    • No ducts and allows zoning; produces redundant heating and cooling system.
    • If system installed is 110 volts, can be easily operated off a generator as they typically draw less than 500 watts. Great for post-hurricane household resiliency.
  • Heat pump water heaters (HPWH)
    • Replace electric resistance water heater. Choose 80 gallon size if 3 or more people in household
      • Saves 68% of water heating energy or 1,400 kWh/yr ($155/yr).
  • Heat pump clothes dryers (HPCD) with high-efficiency washer
    • Saves 35% of clothes dryer energy (250 kWh/yr) or $30/yr.
  • High-efficiency refrigerators for those found to be using more than 3 kWh/day
    • Saves ~ 470 kWh/yr depending on consumption of existing unit: $50/yr.
  • Adding more ceiling insulation
    • Insulate attic to R38 from R11 or R19.
    • Reduces heating and cooling by ~10% or 600 kWh/yr ($65/yr).
    • If re-roofing, choose a lighter colored roof: 7% reduction for white shingles; 20% reduction for white metal or white tile (up to 1,200 kWh/yr ($130/yr).
  • High-efficiency Energy Star dishwasher
    • Replace when dishwasher worn out; saves 100 kWh/yr ($11).
  • Variable speed pool pump [special high priority retrofit]
    • Pool pump is second largest electricity end use in Florida homes that have them: 3,600—4,500 kWh per year.
    • If you have a pool, save 65%-85% of pool pumping electricity.
    • Savings 2,500 kWh or $275 per year.

Replacing your existing single-speed or two-speed pool pump with a fully variable speed pump will typically save over 2,500 kWh per yr ($300/yr) and is one of the most cost-effective retrofits which was evaluated in the PDR project.

4-5 inches of cellulose insulation in the attic (about R-15) is not adequate in Florida. If your ceiling insulation is deficient, increase it to at least R-38 if that that will fit. Otherwise, consider installing a white reflective roof a the time that you re-roof your home.

1 Note that the substitute shower heads are not of the annoying flow restriction type, but a variety of fixtures chosen based on high ratings in Consumer Reports from which homeowners could choose.

2 Note that measures that affect pool pumping energy have very large impact since measured pool pump energy averages nearly 4,000 kWh per year and fully a third of Florida homes have swimming pools.


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About the Author

Danny is principal research scientist at the Florida Solar Energy Center where he has worked for the last thirty years. His research for the U.S. Department of Energy has concentrated on advanced residential efficiency technologies and establishing the feasibility of Zero Energy homes (ZEH) — reducing the energy use in homes to the point where solar electric power can meet most annual needs. The opinions expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Florida Solar Energy Center, the University of Central Florida or the U.S. Department of Energy.



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