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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

PSC orders electric companies to get aggressive in saving energy



For the second time in a month, the Public Service Commission on Tuesday rejected its own staff recommendation and ordered the state's largest electric companies to increase incentives for customers to use less energy.

Under the proposal, Florida Power & Light, Progress Energy and Tampa Electric must establish conservation programs that provide incentives to customers to use less energy so that they reduce the total energy used by 2019. For FPL that means a reduction of 3082 gigawatt hours per year, compared to the 878 gwh the company sought. For Progress Energy, the reduction would be 3,488 gigawatt hours per year, compared to the 614 gwh the company sought. And for Tampa Electric, it would mean a 360 gigawatt hours reduction, compared to 202 gwh the company sought.

The companies must consider offering customers ways to save using the top 10 measures for residential energy savings, such as check their cooling systems, installing water heater blankets, using energy efficient light bulbs and install energy-efficient pool pumps.

The companies will also be required to spend $24.5 million, and up to 10 percent of the money they get from customers for energy conservation on pilot programs for solar water heaters and solar photovoltaic programs, doubling the current rate. The cost to customers would be no more than 19 cents a month for the average home that uses 1,200 kilowatts per month.

"It's a minimal thing that's a good thing to do,'' said Commissioner Nancy Argenziano.

The panel had sent the staff back to the drawing board on Nov. 10 for recommending conservation goals that were too weak. The staff returned with slightly stronger recommendations, recommending a 2.11 percent energy savings in 10 years, but that was still too low for environmental groups such as the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which wants a 9 percent reduction. The staff originally proposed a 1.18 percent energy savings.

The staff clearly considers it incongruous to tell a electric company to encourage people to use less electricity. "You're telling them not to sell their product,'' said a baffled Tom Ballinger of the PSC's Division of Economic Regulation. "It's like telling a farmer not to grow corn."

The conservation goals apply to Florida's five investor-owned power companies and municipal utilities in Orlando and Jacksonville.

Suzanne Grant, spokesman for Progress Energy, warned that the increase in the conservation goals will increase costs to customers. "Progress Energy Florida remains committed to developing and implementing new, effective and affordable ways to help our customers save energy and money. Our aggressive approach is evidenced by our customers’ collective $1 billion in energy-cost savings and is reinforced by our proposed 50-percent increase to our energy-efficiency goals – the most aggressive plan offered by any utility in the state,'' she said.

Mayco Villafana, FPL spokesman released the following comment: For nearly three decades in partnership with our customers, FPL has managed one of the most successful and cost-effective energy efficiency programs in the nation, and we aim to continue leading the way. As a nationally recognized leader in energy efficiency, we believe that these new goals are very aggressive targets. While we are concerned about the increased costs for all of our customers, particularly for those who are not able to take part in the programs, we are committed to ensuring that our conservation programs are as cost-effective as possible.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:07pm]


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