Monday, November 12, 2018
Business

St. Petersburg at odds with Duke Energy over using LED bulbs

By changing its 30,000 street light bulbs to more efficient LEDs, St. Petersburg could save as much as $1.8 million a year — if Duke Energy would allow it.

To be clear, Duke doesn't mind using the energy saving bulbs, but the city says the utility doesn't want to give a financial break for the reduction in electricity.

"The problem is they just don't want to do it," said City Council chairman Karl Nurse. "Some of it is the standard resistance to change. The motivation beyond that I'm not entirely sure."

St. Petersburg and all local governments in the Duke Energy Florida service area pay their street light bills according to a utility tariff or pay schedule approved by the state Public Service Commission.

For St. Petersburg, that tariff amounts to $4.7 million a year. Based on savings the Raleigh-Durham area received in North Carolina from Duke, the city could see a 40 percent reduction or savings of $1.8 million by using the LED bulbs, Nurse said.

If Duke reduced St. Petersburg's tariff, it would also have to reduce the rate for any other local government in its service area in Florida that switched to LEDs, Nurse said. That could have a substantial impact on Duke's bottom line at a time when the utility is grappling with the loss of its Crystal River nuclear plant and billions of dollars in related costs.

Ann Marie Varga, a Duke spokeswoman, said the utility is working with St. Petersburg to resolve the concerns but could not immediately say what tariff rate the city would be charged with the new light bulbs.

"Lighting has long been a topic as technology and process improvements have occurred," Varga said. "The discussion with the city continues. We are expecting a reduction in some of the LED rates, but I cannot confirm the numbers that you've provided."

Nurse said Duke has told the city that it needs to maintain the current tariff rate because of the high cost of the LED bulbs the utility uses, made by GE. Nurse said the city has suggested using a different, less costly brand, but to no avail.

The idea would be to replace all of the bulbs as quickly as possible to achieve the greatest potential savings, even if existing lights have not burned out.

If the city and the utility cannot reach an agreement, the PSC might have to decide the tariff rate.

Use of the LED bulbs for street lighting has been growing among cities nationwide in recent years.

A study last fall by the Washington, D.C., research firm Northeast Group LLC found that the more efficient LED streetlights on average saved about 60 percent in combined energy and maintenance costs.

"Not only are LEDs helping save money through reduced energy and maintenance costs, but 95 percent of the cities and municipalities we surveyed said both they and residents were very happy with the performance and light quality of the new streetlights," Northeast Group stated in its report.

"Many reported that law enforcement officials in particular had praised the lights for improving visibility and public safety."

In addition to consuming less energy and reducing maintenance costs, LED streetlights also turn on and off nearly instantly and have dimming capability. That enables cities to install "smart" features to the streetlights, which further reduce energy consumption, improve billing, and enable remote monitoring features.

Northeast Group surveyed about 100 cities and municipalities across the United States that have implemented some form of LED streetlight initiatives.

Much of the growth in LED bulb use was fueled by federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As those funds have dried up, local governments have had to rely on the falling prices of LED bulbs to make the upfront cost affordable.

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.

Comments
Tampa Bay homes prices lag in third quarter

Tampa Bay homes prices lag in third quarter

According to Florida Realtors, the median price of a single-family home rose to $236,000 in the three months ended in September.
Updated: 1 hour ago
2.8M Floridians expected to travel for Thanksgiving

2.8M Floridians expected to travel for Thanksgiving

AAA, The Auto Club Group, forecasts a 5 percent increase in Floridians hitting the roads, skies, waterways and rails for the holiday weekend. Here's what to expect.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Feeling Lucky? Specialty grocer Lucky's Market proposed for central Pasco

Feeling Lucky? Specialty grocer Lucky's Market proposed for central Pasco

Lucky's Market would fill the space vacated by Winn-Dixie at State Road 54 and Collier Parkway in Land O' Lakes.
Updated: 5 hours ago
Dear Penny: I need a will, but I’ll have nothing left after attorney fees

Dear Penny: I need a will, but I’ll have nothing left after attorney fees

Dear Penny,My wife and I just had twins and have realized that we need to get a will put in place. We started searching for a lawyer and found that it could cost anywhere from $1,000, up to as much as $5,000, to get a will created. We won’t have anyt...
Published: 11/12/18
HSN’s revenue slumps 5 percent, but parent company still posts higher sales

HSN’s revenue slumps 5 percent, but parent company still posts higher sales

St. Petersburg-based HSN has seen quarterly revenues drop 5 percent compared to a year ago, according to the parent company that laid off hundreds of Tampa Bay employees last month, Qurate Retail Group. Pennsylvania-based Qurate Retail came out with...
Published: 11/09/18
Updated: 11/10/18
Look inside the new Target: six stores have been overhauled in Tampa Bay

Look inside the new Target: six stores have been overhauled in Tampa Bay

• Six Tampa Bay Targets have been overhauled this year•1,000 will be remodeled by the end of 2020• A new handheld tool allows employees to cash shoppers out anywhere in the store• The new toy department will remind you of Toys R Us, and the beauty se...
Published: 11/09/18
Honeywell Aerospace moving a handful of jobs to Clearwater from Albuquerque plant to be closed

Honeywell Aerospace moving a handful of jobs to Clearwater from Albuquerque plant to be closed

CLEARWATER — Honeywell Aerospace is closing its plant in Albuquerque, N.M., and a small number of those jobs are headed to its facility in Clearwater, the company said Friday."Honeywell has decided to move manufacturing and engineering operations fro...
Published: 11/09/18
Safety tips for Realtors: forget the taser and spike heels, always follow, never lead a client

Safety tips for Realtors: forget the taser and spike heels, always follow, never lead a client

ST. PETERSBURG — Chips Wells, crime prevention specialist for the St. Petersburg Department, has daughter who’s a Realtor. Among the advice he gave her: Forget the spike heels when showing a house to a stranger. "I want you to wear shoes...
Published: 11/09/18
Hotel developer closes on block next to Tampa City Hall for Hyatt project

Hotel developer closes on block next to Tampa City Hall for Hyatt project

TAMPA — HRI Properties has closed on its $7.6 million purchase of a city-owned block next to Tampa’s City Hall and says it plans to start construction later this month on a dual-branded Hyatt Place and Hyatt House hotel project.In 2016, Tampa put out...
Published: 11/09/18
What the Florida midterms tell us about paying for our economic priorities

What the Florida midterms tell us about paying for our economic priorities

There’s a lot to unpack from the midterms.Will the recounts change the outcome of any of the statewide races?Can polling find a better model, one that predicts the actual winners?Will felons who have served their sentences really get their voting rig...
Published: 11/09/18