The Florida Public Service Commission did two things right this week by rejecting its staff's lackluster goals for energy conservation. First, commissioners signaled that Florida will get serious about energy efficiency. State law requires the state's major power companies to save enough energy through conservation to meet a portion of their demand. Every five years, the PSC reviews and updates the targets.
The staff recommended that the utilities not be burdened with any new demands until the next review, in 2014. They said the economic recession is a bad time to force the power companies to reward consumers to make energy-efficient investments at home. Never mind the twisted logic or that the utilities have largely met or surpassed all their targets since the efficiency law was enacted in 1980. Leaving conservation to the whim of the very companies in the business of selling power is a recipe for feeding Florida's addiction to fossil fuels and the need for ever-more power plants.
Second, commissioners signaled that business as usual is not good enough. The staff members need to start showing more concern for the interests of consumers and less for the industry. The targets are supposed to be meaningful. Lowering bills for ratepayers, reducing the need for expensive new power plants and curbing emissions of greenhouse gases are all sound policies for Florida. The PSC needs to get the conservation goals right.