Florida cities and counties are going to bat for their residents and pushing for utilities to set stronger energy savings goals. Utility efficiency programs are a critical tool supporting local government efforts to improve sustainability, reduce emissions, and promote job growth. But as cities and counties are working to ramp up energy savings, utilities are going backwards.
The Florida Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act (FEECA) directs the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to adopt goals for utilities to increase energy efficiency and conservation efforts. In 2014, we reported that energy savings goals for Florida utilities shrank significantly to about 10% of prior targets. The Commission revisits energy savings targets every five years, and this time around, it’s even worse than before. In fact, four of the seven Florida utilities subject to FEECA have proposed goals of zero for the years 2020-2029.
Local governments are taking notice. In a series of resolutions and letters to the PSC, Florida cities and counties are calling for far more ambitious energy efficiency targets that align with local targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions. The City of Coral Gables passed a resolution in early July that urges the Commission “to set meaningful, impactful, cost-effective, and conservation conscious goals.” Coral Gables noted that strong utility-run efficiency programs are an essential component of meeting the city’s 100% clean, renewable energy goal but that current savings from these programs fall well below the national average. Miami-Dade County also linked utility energy savings goals to county-wide emission reduction efforts in a resolution adopted in May.
The city of Miami Beach echoed calls for meaningful energy savings goals in their resolution, pushing for regulators to bring Florida’s energy savings in line with the national average. The city further urged regulators to fix the underlying practices that led utilities to propose such minimal goals – namely, the reliance on the Ratepayer Impact Measure (RIM) test, which counts the revenues utilities could lose due to increased energy savings as a cost. Florida is the only state to rely primarily on RIM to assess its cost effectiveness programs. Other states have moved away from primary reliance on RIM, recognizing that it does not appropriately value energy efficiency as a resource.
These calls for improved regulatory frameworks and stronger savings goals were echoed by cities across the state. The cities of Dunedin, Largo, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota all submitted letters to the PSC asking regulators to use the FEECA process to set savings goals for utilities that would help, not hinder, local efforts to shift toward a cleaner and more resilient energy grid.
Next week, the Commission will convene stakeholders for hearings on utility energy savings goals. Already, FEECA dockets have been flooded with public comments (including comments from ACEEE). At the hearings, the Commission will weigh the perspectives of various stakeholders, many of which will echo the points that cities have surfaced in their letters and resolutions. With cities and counties taking the lead in the shift toward clean and efficient energy in Florida, it remains an open question whether state regulators will give local governments and Floridians the support they need.