Duke Energy Florida might not do so well in the future, but the company ranked in the top third for energy efficiency among utilities in a recent study.
In a report this week by Ceres, a nonprofit organization that provides statistics about energy efficiency and renewable energy, Duke's Florida operation placed 22nd out of 65 subsidiaries of the nation's largest power companies.
Duke Energy Florida ranked second among Duke's properties for total energy-efficiency savings as a percentage of annual retail sales.
Tampa Electric was not included in the report.
Florida Power & Light ranked just behind Duke at 23 in this category in the report.
Ceres said its report is a first look at how the nation's largest utilities compare with one another when it comes to saving energy. The organization based its report on 2012 data, the latest information available for the all of the various utilities studied.
The report follows three days of hearings this week before the state Public Service Commission, which is conducting its review of Florida's energy-efficiency and conservation policies, a process regulators undertake every five years.
Florida utilities propose to gut their efficiency and conservation goals by a collective 93 percent. They say they can produce electricity at a lower cost than saving it, which will benefit ratepayers.
"Costs (of producing power) have declined significantly," Stephen Sim, a senior manager for FPL, told state regulators this week. "Our analysis shows that (efficiency) does not come in at half the cost of power plants."
Critics say the utilities simply want to build more powerful plants because they make money from producing electricity, not saving it. And Duke, in particular, they say, has wasted billions of customers' money on failed power plant projects.
"Just imagine what the ratepayers on the west coast of Florida could have done with the $3 billion they spent on the broken Crystal River nuclear power plant or the jettisoned Levy County plant?" U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor wrote in a letter to PSC Chairman Art Graham on Thursday. "With $3 billion, we could have provided energy-efficient appliances, air-conditioning systems, weatherized homes, insulation, smart meters to many Floridians and businesses — and create thousands of jobs doing so."
Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, testified before Castor's House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday, disputing utility claims that efficiency costs more than building plants.
"Energy efficiency is generally our least expensive energy resource, meaning that it often costs less to save a unit of energy than it costs to produce that same unit of energy," Nadel said. "As a result, large, cost-effective savings are available in all 50 states."
Dan Bakal, director of electric power for Ceres, said his organization has found that success of energy-efficiency programs has relied on regulators maintaining policies that require or encourage utilities to save power.
"State policy is kind of the driver," Bakal said. "There's a strong correlation between states with strong policies and utilities saving energy."
Contact Ivan Penn at email@example.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow @Consumers_Edge.