Crowd Calls on Florida PSC: Act Now for Clean Energy Solutions
Public Officials, Experts & Concerned Citizens Call for Energy Savings, Good Jobs and Clean Air Now
ST. PETERSBURG, FL – More than one hundred St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay area residents attended the Citizens’ Hearing for Clean Energy Solutions on Wednesday night, joining local public officials in calling for the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to boost energy savings goals, clean air and clean energy jobs in 2014. Previously, the Sierra Club formally requested an official PSC field hearing in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, which the PSC denied, prompting Sierra Club and the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition to hold tonight’s meeting. Florida’s regulated utility companies have also proposed unprecedented reductions in energy savings goals, and without action from the PSC, Florida consumers could see their bills continue to increase each year.
“Our Public Service Commission is supposed to make sure Florida consumers get reliable power at the lowest cost, but they’ve all but ignored the fastest, cheapest, safest option to meet our power needs. Energy efficiency lowers power bills, supports our economy and creates jobs here in Florida. The PSC needs to hold the power companies’ feet to the fire and make sure Florida consumers get the savings we need,” said St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice, a supporter of the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition.
The Florida PSC decides this summer whether to strengthen or weaken state-wide energy efficiency programs. These programs save consumers money on their monthly power bills, support cleaner, healthier air quality and create jobs for local economies. But in spite of these benefits, the major Florida power companies’ energy savings goals are below industry standards. Even worse, Duke Energy proposes far weaker goals for its Florida customers than its customers in Ohio, North and South Carolina receive. Energy savings programs, when structured correctly, can also bring relief to low and fixed-income residents struggling with high power bills.
“Duke Energy is saving their customers in Ohio, North Carolina and South Carolina money through good energy efficiency programs, but they’re not doing the same for their customers in Florida. Florida consumers should get the same opportunities and benefits as Duke customers elsewhere,” said Kelly Martin, senior campaign representative with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “We need stronger, better energy savings goals for Floridians now. To make sure Duke Energy and the PSC hear our message, hundreds more Florida residents will join us at the Rally for Energy Savings in Tallahassee on July 21.”
FP&L in particular plans to make unprecedented reductions in the programs that have helped avoid expensive, polluting new power plants. The company’s proposed energy savings goals for 2015 are roughly 100 times lower than its achieved savings in 2013. FP&L alone provides power for more than 4.6 million customers in Florida, so such a major, unexpected reduction in energy savings could have a substantial impact on its customer base and local economies.
"The PSC is failing to help consumers get reliable power at the lowest cost. Instead, we are paying some of the highest rates for electricity. Power companies profit wildly from building big, expensive power plants, which are rubber stamped by the PSC. Unfortunately, they have all but ignored energy efficiency measures and alternative and renewable power sources. Clearly, it is time to change energy policy in Florida," said State Representative Dwight Dudley (D-St. Petersburg).
In addition to strengthening energy savings goals, the Sierra Club and partners are working to prevent utility companies from canceling their pilot solar programs. Florida has some of the best solar power potential in the country and already has thousands of residents employed in the solar industry, yet the seven utilities have proposed canceling the programs that help home and business owners purchase solar power systems for their property. Underscoring the importance of these programs, Wal-Mart Corporation chose to intervene in the case, specifically supporting these programs and asking the PSC to better account for the value of solar power.
“The PSC was formed to protect the economic interests of Florida citizens, yet this unfortunately has not been the case. The PSC has in fact shown contempt for Floridian’s by putting utilities first and consumers second and ignoring the fastest, cheapest, safest option to meet our power needs. Energy efficiency lowers power bills, supports our economy and creates jobs here in Florida,” said Gulfport City Council member Michael Fridovich.
In just three weeks, many St. Pete and Tampa residents will travel to Tallahassee, FL, for public hearings at the Public Service Commission. The Sierra Club and Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition will hold a rally on Monday, July 21 at 11 AM outside the Commission building, repeating their call for the PSC to strengthen energy savings goals in 2014.