Politics & Government

Energy conservation rules rolled back by Florida regulators

State regulators set the clock back on energy conservation in Florida on Tuesday by reversing a rule that would have required Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida to encourage customers to use less electricity.

Their argument: saving money for some was going to require higher bills for everyone.

The Public Service Commission agreed, so they voted to ignore a 2008 law that required utilities to expand their existing conservation programs.

Under the 2009 rules, all customers would pay more money for the additional energy conservation programs. At Progress Energy, customers would pay an estimated $6.24 more per month this year and up to $16.52 more in 2014. At FPL, customers would have paid an additional $3.70 a month this year and up to $4.11 in 2014, according to PSC staff estimates based on average residential usage.

The commission adopted the standards in 2009 but Progress Energy and other companies had challenged them in the past year.

The commission’s decision to roll back conservation programs follows the wishes of Gov. Rick Scott, whose staff recently weighed into the energy debate. At a meeting of electric company lobbyists and energy industry representatives in late June, the governor’s former policy director, Mary Anne Carter, said the governor wanted the PSC to soften the energy efficiency goals as a way to lower the cost of electricity in Florida to attract new business.

“Conservation is a good thing, but the cost of it doesn’t have to be this high,” she said.

But consumer advocates challenged the company’s cost projections and the governor’s assumption that the program is too expensive.

Consultants for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a nonprofit advocate for energy conservation, said the estimates were intentionally inflated to make the programs look more expensive than necessary. They said they reflected only the short-term implementation cost without considering the long-term savings. And they chided the PSC for not demanding more accurate numbers, saying the decision essentially ignores the mandates of the 2008 Legislature.

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