TALLAHASSEE — After remaining on the sidelines on energy issues since taking office, Gov. Rick Scott is entering the fray, ordering up renewable energy legislation, demanding that utility regulators lower energy-efficiency standards and preparing a new energy plan, the governor's top policy advisers said Thursday.
Scott's new special adviser on energy policy, Mary Bane, is hoping to find a solution to the renewable energy bills that have died in the last three legislative sessions that will appease the warring factions, said Mary Anne Carter, Scott's policy chief.
By summer's end, Bane will have a proposed state energy policy that will address everything from oil drilling off Florida's coast to clean coal and renewable energy, Carter told about three dozen energy stakeholders in the Capitol's Cabinet meeting room. The first priority, however, will be to open the door to renewable energy and shut the door on what the governor considers expensive energy-efficiency policies, she said.
Scott "is a big proponent of renewable energy," she said.
Scott also wants the Public Service Commission to soften the "demand-side management" requirement on electric companies that force them to reward customers for conserving energy, she said. "Conservation is a good thing, but the cost of it doesn't have to be this high," Carter told the crowd.
The Public Service Commission has recently postponed discussions on energy-efficiency goals for Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light, and the commission's staff has recommended that — because of the economy and high energy costs — Progress Energy should be allowed to set a more modest energy-efficiency goal than the one set last year. In 2010, the PSC required Progress to lower energy usage by 3,205 gigawatt-hours over the next 10 years, a goal the company said would cost the average residential customer about $13.20 per month over nine years.
Scott believes that to lure manufacturers to Florida, the state must lower its energy costs, said Doug Darling, a deputy chief of staff. Darling said that the governor "wants solutions" and "is very sensitive to putting this on the backs of ratepayers."
He said that while Scott believes "renewables make sense, it has to be balanced in terms of cost-effectiveness."
The bill pushed by Florida Power & Light for the past three years would have allowed Florida's largest electric utility company to raise rates as much as $2 a month and control the solar energy market in the state without having to get approval from regulators.
The proposal, which died in the last week of the session, would have allowed the company to generate more than half of the renewable energy allowed under the rate increase and charge customers using 1,200 kilowatt hours $2.42 a month more for the next five years.