- Florida regulators on Tuesday voted 3-2 to streamline the process of setting utility energy efficiency goals, but customer advocates say the changes are largely administrative and will not add transparency to the process, particularly in comparing efficiency with the value of other resources.
- The Public Service Commission sets utility energy savings goals every five years for a 10-year period. In 2014 the targets were slashed over cost concerns, and in 2019 utilities proposed almost no increases to their savings targets. Concern over the stagnant targets helped launch the commission’s rulemaking, which concluded yesterday.
- Utilities say the streamlined process will allow them to deliver more innovative efficiency programs to customers, while advocates expect Florida will continue to languish when it comes to energy efficiency.
As electricity prices rise consumer advocates in the Sunshine State are calling for more focus on energy efficiency, but they say the changes approved yesterday will not move the needle.
“We are still struggling to see how [the changes] meaningfully provide more transparency and clarity in the goal setting process itself,” George Cavros, Florida director and energy policy attorney at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, told regulators Tuesday at the PSC open meeting.
The PSC last updated Florida’s energy efficiency rules in the early 1990s, say experts.
The savings targets utilities proposed in 2019 have not been approved yet. That means “we are now heading in the goal setting proceeding next year with effectively the same rule that produced zero or near zero proposed goals,” Cavros said in an email after the PSC vote.
The changes approved Tuesday will require utilities to provide a more broad range of cost and benefit information, the PSC said in a statement, and will require utilities’ energy efficiency program plans to include “an annual estimate of the costs to be recovered by customers.”
But SACE and other groups had advocated for three major changes to the energy savings goal setting process, none of which were adopted. They want to see the PSC move away from a “ratepayer impact measure,” or RIM test, which they say considers energy efficiency as lost revenue for utilities without valuing savings.
“The proposed rule does eliminate some of the reliance on RIM but still does not provide the flexibility to allow the commission to consider all the potential DSM programs,” Patricia Ann Christensen, an attorney representing the Florida Office of Public Counsel, told regulators.
Utilities should be required to present a cost effectiveness test which “will provide more information to the commission on the economic benefits of energy efficiency to the general body of ratepayers, because it's the only test that places energy efficiency, investment and supply-side investments on a level playing field,” Cavros said. “It is essentially the RIM test without the lost revenue piece.”
SACE and other groups also wanted to see the commission set specific low-income energy savings targets, and eliminate the use of certain time-based screens to assess the payback of efficiency measures.
Utilities supported the changes the PSC approved.
The updates “provide improvements to the process for establishing goals, programs and plans and thereby allowing utilities like FPL to bring innovative programs to our customers, while continuing to keep rates low,” Florida Power & Light Senior Attorney William Cox told regulators. “That includes a consolidation of the processes establishing [demand side management] goals, programs and plans, which will make the overall goal setting more efficient.”
As for the RIM test, Cox said FPL “believes consideration of revenue requirements is important, and the addition of [a new] test really would add nothing, no new information to the process.”