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PSC staff backs utilities' proposal to gut energy-efficiency goals

Published Nov. 13, 2014

State Public Service Commission staffers largely backed proposals by Florida's utilities to gut their energy-efficiency goals by more than 90 percent in recommendations released Thursday, a moved that angered environmentalists.

In a more-than-100-page filing, the commission's staff members presented their analysis of the hotly debated utility proposals, which also include elimination of rebates for installation of rooftop solar.

The state's utilities — including Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric and Florida Power & Light — argued during hearings this summer that energy-efficiency programs have become too costly to continue. The utilities said it's cheaper for them now to produce a kilowatt of electricity than to save it.

In their recommendations Thursday, commission staff members agreed. The "utilities correctly calculated the costs and benefits to the customers participating in the energy savings and demand reduction measures," the staff wrote.

In addition, the staff said the solar rebate programs should be allowed to expire in December 2015 because they "represent a large subsidy from the general body of ratepayers to a very small segment of each utility's customers."

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy disagreed, saying rooftop solar would prove its value over building more power plants that increase all ratepayers' costs.

As for energy efficiency, the Southern Alliance and other environmental groups said the utilities simply calculated high costs to kill the programs.

"The utilities cost estimates across all … tests are unnecessarily high relative to peer utilities in other states," the Southern Alliance was quoted as saying in the staff report.

Susan Glickman of the Southern Alliance said it is widely expected that the five-member commission will rubber-stamp the staff's recommendations when they vote Nov. 25.

Glickman noted that the commission recently approved Duke building a 1,640-megawatt natural gas plant as the utility proposes to gut its conservation goals. FPL is also constructing a new natural gas facility.

"People should be up in arms," Glickman said, "that we're ending energy-efficiency programs while we're approving new power plants."

Contact Ivan Penn at ipenn@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow @Consumers_Edge.