News from Tallahassee for 11/23/14

Attorney General Candidate Speaks Out Against Energy Conservation Program Cuts posted on 7/23/14

by MATTHEW STOLPE | WFSU

A Democratic Florida attorney general candidate is speaking out against energy conservation program cuts. Power companies are asking regulators to allow the programs to be scaled back in favor of more cost-effective ventures.

Attorney general candidate George Sheldon is calling on the Public Service Commission to deny utility companies’ requests for lower energy-efficiency standards. The PSC regulates privately owned utilities. The commission is meeting this week with power companies, including Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy to re-evaluate conservation goals.

The power companies argue efforts like solar energy programs are expensive to run and suffer from low demand. Sheldon, however, says the utilities are motivated by money.

“To be honest with you, power companies don’t make their money from conservation. They make their money by underutilization of power plants, by building new power plants, and getting the customer to pay for it. It’s not where we ought to be going as a state,” Sheldon says.

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FP&L, Duke, TECO seek to cut conservation goals posted on 7/22/14

by Lloyd Dunkelberger | Herlad-Tribune

TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Public Service Commission on Monday began three days of hearings that could allow the state's major electric utility companies to dramatically slash their energy conservation goals over the next five years.

The hearings immediately drew criticism as the public was barred from testifying at the proceedings. The PSC considered the hearings to be a legal forum to gather evidence and testimony on the conservation standards.

State Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, unsuccessfully pleaded with the commission to allow the public to comment on the standards, saying “the name Public Service Commission includes the public.”

“The public should be heard on this, not hurt,” Dudley said. “Right now, they're about ready to get hurt.”

Dudley and environmental groups argued that allowing Florida Power & Light Co., Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric Co., Gulf Power and three other utilities to lower their energy conservation goals - including eliminating solar power programs for homeowners - will increase the demand for costly new power plants and result in higher electric bills for ratepayers.

But the utilities countered that energy efficiency is occurring through other means, including stricter building codes and higher efficiency standards for appliances. They say the energy conservation programs, which include things like home energy audits or solar power, cost ratepayers money.

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Battle looms over Florida goals for conserving electricity posted on 7/21/14

by kevin spear | Orlando Sentinel

Power bills in Florida traditionally include a charge of several dollars a month that utilities use to invest in things like customer rebates for installing better insulation, efficient windows and power-saving appliances.

That conservation charge will be the focus of heated dispute as it's taken up today for a five-year review by the state Public Service Commission. The charge may ultimately be reduced, as the largest utilities hope, but so would customer access to rebates.

"States all over the country have bulked up their energy-savings goals," said the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. "Florida seems to be sliding in the opposite direction."

With Orlando Utilities Commission taking a neutral position, the rest of the state's biggest utilities say the challenge of conservation has been so conquered that they shouldn't have to play as much of a role.

Customers are going to cut back their need for electricity anyway, the utilities say, because government efficiency rules for building construction, appliances and light bulbs have gotten tighter.

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Florida legislator among 33 seeking job on PSC posted on 6/19/14

by AP

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A Florida legislator and a current utility regulator are among 33 people seeking an appointment to the Public Service Commission.

The five-member commission regulates investor-owned electric, natural gas and water utilities. The terms of two current PSC members expire in January.

State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, applied, as did current PSC member Julie Brown. Patronis is leaving the Legislature this year due to term limits.

The other candidates who applied include former Rep. Dave Murzin and PSC general counsel Curt Kiser.

Commissioner Eduardo Balbis did not apply for a new term.

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Florida headed for showdown with EPA over new emissions standards posted on 6/3/14

by zac anderson | herald-tribune

The announcement Monday that federal officials will begin regulating carbon emissions from power plants in an effort to address global climate change sets up a potential conflict with Florida leaders who have been moving in the opposite direction.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring each state to develop a plan for reducing power plant emissions, something Florida lawmakers have strongly resisted in recent years.

The Republican-majority Legislature has repealed legislation pushed through by Charlie Crist — the former Republican governor now running against Gov. Rick Scott as a Democrat — that sought to limit carbon emissions.

Hostility toward such programs by top Florida officials raises questions about whether the state will cooperate with federal efforts to regulate carbon emissions, with some speculating that the deciding factor could be the 2014 governor's race.

“For the folks in Florida, this gubernatorial race is a very stark difference between the candidates” on energy policy, said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Smith's group has been trying to press Scott, a Republican, to outline his position on climate change. Scott said in the past that he doubts humans are contributing to the problem, but when asked about the issue lately the governor simply says, “I'm not a scientist.”

The governor's office will have significant authority over how the federal emissions rules are implemented in Florida. The EPA is calling for a 30 percent reduction in power plants' carbon emissions nationwide from 2005 levels by 2030.

The goal is even higher in Florida, with a 38 percent cut proposed. But federal officials are giving states wide latitude to develop their own emissions reduction programs.

Each state has until June 2016 to submit a plan to the EPA and outline how it will achieve emissions reductions from cleaner fossil fuels, nuclear power, renewable energy, energy efficiency efforts or other proposals.

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