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Florida utilities make little move on energy efficiency. FPL rate increase will affect the state

FPL line crews works to restore power after Hurricane Nicole in Jensen Beach, FL on November 10, 2022.
Mike Mazur/Mike Mazur
FPL line crews works to restore power after Hurricane Nicole in Jensen Beach, FL on November 10, 2022.

Florida’s Public Service Commission, the state agency that oversees utilities, voted Tuesday to passa draft rule on energy efficiency that environmental advocates say doesn’t go far enough to modernize the outdated rule.

Florida’s state regulations on energy efficiency have not been updated for 30 years. Every five years utilities submit energy efficient goals before the PSC.

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George Cavros, Florida director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said a number of the goals the utilities proposed were “zero or near zero.”

“In other states, they're heavily investing in energy efficiency because it is the lowest cost resource to a utility. The cheapest kilowatt is the one that's never produced, right?” remarked Cavros.

The draft rule the commission voted on streamlines the process for implementing new programs, but Cavros said the rule doesn’t make fundamental changes.

“The commission dropped the ball today,” he declared. “They had the unique opportunity to put Florida on a path to lower power bills by using energy smarter. And it chose not to go there. It's a real head scratcher.”

RELATED: Florida electric bills going up in April

Environmental organizations provided recommendations to the commission that include an expansive cost-effectiveness test, not the current ratepayer impact measure test, referred to as RIM. Another recommendation was to stop using screening processes that Cavros calls “very restrictive.”

“The utilities go through these energy efficiency potential analysis before they propose goals every five years,” said Cavros. “And they use very restrictive screens and very restrictive cost effectiveness tests that eliminate almost all of the energy efficiency potential. We're using practices that no other state in the nation uses. So it's a rule that's desperate for modernization."

Northwest Florida residents have been protesting FPL rates for the past year. According Cavros, reducing energy puts less strain on companies and customers.

RELATED: An energy report shows Florida utilities are once again among the lowest in efficiency for 2020

“The fuel has skyrocketed in the last several years, and it's going to remain high and volatile for the near future. And the way the company can insulate its customers and itself is by managing demand, by helping customers lower energy use, and saving money on their power bills," said Cavros. "It's a win-win situation, because the utility burns less gas on its system to generate electricity. At the same time, you're helping struggling families reduce their energy use and save money on their bills."

Although the meeting didn’t go as he planned, Cavros says he won’t stop advocating for better standards in the next goal-setting cycle.

“We plan to engage in that proceeding, and we hope for a better outcome than we had in 2019 Even given that we'll be using, effectively, the same rule that has been in place.”

During the same meeting, the commission also approved FPL rate increases to offset costs for Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. Pensacola residents Christian Wagley and Sarah Setta were at the meeting. Advocates who have been protesting against rate increases called the vote "a small victory" since the rate increase would impact the entire state and not just Northwest Florida customers. The original proposal would have raised bills in Northwest Florida an average of $27 per month. Under the new proposal, the increase is about $15.

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.