News from Tallahassee for 4/28/15

Florida regulators to decide on energy-efficiency goals, solar rebates posted on 11/25/14

by Ivan Penn | Tampa Bay Times

State regulators in Tallahassee are expected to decide today whether to back proposals by Florida utilities to gut their energy-efficiency goals by more than 90 percent and end programs that offered rebates for solar installations.

Ahead of the state Public Service Commission decision, environmental groups and solar backers warned during a conference call with the news media Monday that a vote in favor of the utilities' proposals could push Florida further behind the majority of the nation for the next decade.

Earlier this month, PSC staffers recommended that their bosses back the utilities' proposals.

"Unfortunately, they're not looking out for Florida families," Tim Heberlein, an organizer for the Sierra Club of Florida, said during the call. "Florida was already on the bottom half of states. The decision tomorrow will lock in energy efficiency goals for the next five to 10 years."

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FPL wants customers to pay to fight water rules posted on 10/17/14

by Susan Salisbury | Palm Beach Post

Florida Power & Light Co.’s request to charge customers for “lobbying” against proposed revisions to the Clean Water Act is outrageous, an environmental coalition said Thursday.

FPL is asking the Florida Public Service Commission to allow it to collect $228,500 from its ratepayers for advocacy against the proposed water rules. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are in the midst of a rulemaking process that would more clearly define streams, wetlands and other bodies of water.

“ Florida Power & Light has the audacity to ask the Public Service Commission to use customer’s money to weaken clean water protections,” said Susan Glickman, Florida Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

The PSC is expected to hear Juno Beach-based FPL’s request Wednesday. A vote is scheduled in late November.

FPL spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood said advocating a position with the EPA is not considered lobbying. Laws specify that customer dollars cannot be used to pay for lobbying.

“We are not attempting to influence lawmakers or legislation. We are getting involved in the rule-making process with one of our regulators to protect our customers’ interests and prevent what could be extremely costly and unnecessary requirements,” Gatewood said.

The company’s analysis of four of its plants — Martin, Manatee, Sanford and Turkey Point — found that costs to retrofit the plants’ cooling ponds to comply with the proposed new standards could be $25 million or more per facility.

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Lawmaker proposes legislation to ensure businesses receive cheapest utility rate posted on 10/15/14

by Ivan Penn | Tampa Bay Times

Duke Energy Florida's non-residential customers don't always get the rate that will result in the cheapest bill.

Businesses can choose a rate based in part on the time of day the company uses the most electricity.

Experts in utility rate-making say some Duke business customers — including churches — don't realize they can get their electricity for less, and Duke doesn't automatically give the cheapest rate.

Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, wants to change that.

Dudley, who is seeking re-election to the state House of Representatives against Republican challenger Bill Young, is proposing legislation that would require all utilities to give commercial customers the best deal.

Dudley said the legislation is in response to a report by WTSP-Ch. 10 that some small businesses and churches were paying thousands of dollars more than they needed to. After hiring an analyst to determine the best rate, the churches and businesses saved a bundle.

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Crist ‘overhaul’ of utility panel easier said than done posted on 10/13/14

by William March | Tampa Tribune

As outrage increases over electric rates, particularly in Charlie Crist’s home county of Pinellas, Crist is promising that if elected governor, he’ll “completely overhaul” the state Public Service Commission that regulates them.

“You could overhaul it with this election,” he told The Tampa Tribune editorial board recently. “If I win, I’ll overhaul it. … You get a governor like me, I will only appoint people that will take their regulatory authority seriously again, instead of being lapdogs for the utility industry.”

But it’s not that simple.

The commission Crist promises to overhaul consists of five individuals, all of whom Crist either appointed to their seats or reappointed during his 2007-10 term as governor.

That doesn’t mean Crist agrees with their philosophy or how they’ve done their jobs, and Crist says he doesn’t.

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Regulators order Duke to refund money to customers posted on 10/3/14

by GARY FINEOUT | AP

FL Public Service Commission sealTALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Amid a growing political backlash, state regulators on Thursday ordered one of Florida's largest power companies to give back $54 million it collected from ratepayers to pay for a failed nuclear plant.

The vote by the Florida Public Service Commission, which is coming just weeks before Election Day, is a bit of surprise since it went against the recommendations of the commission staff.

"We recognize that rate payers are frustrated and that is a reality," said PSC member Ronald Brise. "Our duty I believe is to find a way to address the issues that are frustrating the consumers but do it in a way that reflects our current statutory framework."

The decision means that sometime next year that Duke Energy Florida will wipe out an average $3.45 a month charge that customers are paying for costs associated with a now-scuttled nuclear plant. Duke announced last year it was abandoning plans to build the plant in Levy County on Florida's Gulf coast, but consumers are still paying for costs associated with the plant.

Duke Energy Florida has roughly 1.7 million customers.

Duke has already paid $54 million for equipment that was supposed to be used for the Levy plant but never received it. The company is now suing the vendor responsible and Duke officials wanted to wait until the lawsuit was resolved before crediting customers.

The PSC vote to credit customers comes at the same time that treatment of the company has become an issue in the governor's race. A group launched by a California billionaire environmentalist has taken out ads attacking Gov. Rick Scott over Duke Energy.

Republican legislators, meanwhile, have also complained about Duke and some of its billing practices. Attorney General Pam Bondi, who has spent nearly four years sidestepping utility cases, this week called on the PSC to return the $54 million to ratepayers.

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