Advertisement
  1. Business

Florida power companies ask state regulators to let them retreat from energy-saving goals. Again.

Florida’s investor owned utilities are in the midst of a hearing that will determine their energy efficiency goals for the next five years. Pictured are solar panels on a home in Dunedin. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2018)]
Published Aug. 16

Editor's note: Tampa Electric Co.'s proposed efficiency target increased from its 2014 goal. An earlier version of this story misstated the change.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's investor-owned utilities are asking state regulators to let them back away from prior pledges to promote energy and conservation. That could put power-saving discount programs for customers in jeopardy.

At a hearing that has stretched into its second day on Tuesday, representatives from utilities, including Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co., testified that continuing to provide programs to help customers save energy aren't cost effective.

Environmentalists say the existing energy-saving programs weren't particularly ambitious to begin with.

"Florida does not have meaningful energy efficiency programs," said Susan Glickman, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "The big investor-owned utilities are at the hearing this week to make it worse."

The state requires publicly-owned utilities and some municipal utilities to set goals every five years for how much energy they will save by encouraging their customers cut down on their power use and make upgrades to their homes and businesses, such as buying more energy-efficient appliances.

Across the board, the state's utilities proposed benchmarks that both environmentalists and state consumer advocates called "zero" goals, for how little energy savings they produce. Tampa Electric Co. asked to increase its goal slightly for how much energy savings its programs will produce to 165 gigawatt hours annually, up about 14 percent from its last goal in 2014, Duke requested a 15 percent reduction to 166 gigawatt hours. Florida Power & Light, which serves much of South Florida, asked for a nearly complete withdrawal from prior conservation pledges, a 99 percent drop to 1.03 gigawatt hours.

Utilities hit these marks by providing their customers with programs such as discounts or rebates for home appliances or LED light bulbs. Because their goals are smaller than they were five years ago, fewer programs will be available for customers.

"This is one area where you're telling a company to come up with a program designed to tell its customers, 'Buy less of my product,'" said J.R. Kelly, lawyer with the Office of Public Counsel. Kelly's office represents utility customers before the Florida Public Service Commission.

Utilities reason that customers are already undertaking some cost-saving measures on their own.

"Changes in building codes and standards and economic conditions have increased the amount of efficiency that customers are undertaking on their own without incentive from the utility," Duke said in its filing. "These factors reduce the number of programs and measures that (Duke) can cost-effectively offer its customers."

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The lobby bar at the Current Hotel on Rocky Point in Tampa serves eclectic cocktails and locally brewed coffee. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Take a look inside Tampa Bay’s newest boutique hotel.
  2. The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    The Tampa Bay Partnership, Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Tampa-Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. filed a brief in the Florida Supreme Court.
  3. Tech Data's headquarters in Largo. TD AGENCY  |  Courtesy of Tech Data
    Largo’s Tech Data would be the fourth in as many years, though the potential sale seems far from a done deal.
  4. Former WTSP-Ch. 10 news anchor Reginald Roundtree, shown here with his wife Tree, filed a lawsuit Friday against his former employer alleging he was fired because of age discrimination and retaliation. [Times file] WTSP  |  FACEBOOK
    The suit comes after a federal agency took no action on age discrimination complaints he had filed.
  5. Guests of the Flying Bridge at the Tradewinds Resort, which is now under new ownership. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
    The new owner says he plans to keep its management and 1,100 employees.
  6. The University of South Florida has earned national accolades for its push to raise graduation rates. Student loan debt in Florida is so crushing that it makes it hard to afford a house.
    Staggering debt loads make it hard to buy a home.
  7. The “nakation” — aka clothing-optional tourism — is becoming one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry. Shirking that outer layer at nude beaches and resorts and even on clothing-optional cruises has become the vacation choice du jour for hundreds of thousands of free-spirited Americans. AP Photo/Caleb Jones
    It’s certainly bringing in big bucks in Florida, where the state’s tourism department reports that nude recreation made a $7.4 billion economic impact in the Sunshine State last year.
  8. Bay area gas prices increased by double digits since last week, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. Pictured is a man in St. Petersburg filling up in 2017. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times (2017)] SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Oil refineries’ seasonal maintenance, as well as wholesale gas prices, pushed prices higher.
  9. Former Morgan Stanley investment broker Ami Forte has been permanently barred from working in the broker-dealer industry as a result of thousands of improper trades that were made in the accounts of Home Shopping Network co-founder Roy Speer during the last months of his life. (AP photo | 2016) TAMARA LUSH  |  Associated Press
    Financial regulators barred brokers Ami Forte and Charles Lawrence as a result of more than 2,800 trades on Roy Speer’s accounts in 2011 and 2011.
  10. A conveyor belt takes bags of food from ghost restaurants to a room where delivery drivers pick up orders at Kitchen United's Chicago location on Aug. 29, 2019. Kitchen United, a start-up that builds kitchen commissaries for restaurants looking to enter new markets through delivery or take-out only, has plans to open 40 more kitchens in cities across the U.S. through 2020. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford) TERESA CRAWFORD  |  AP
    Owner Michael Kudrna launched the four spinoffs earlier this year in a matter of weeks as he races to keep his Chicago-area business ahead of a growing trend.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement