© 2023 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Climate change is impacting so much around us: heat, flooding, health, wildlife, housing, and more. WUSF, in collaboration with the Florida Climate Reporting Network, is bringing you stories on how climate change is affecting you.

An energy report shows Florida utilities are once again among the lowest in efficiency for 2020

Screenshot of slide 1 saying "Energy Efficiency In The Southeast, Fourth Annual Report. February 2022." it lists the authors as Forest Bradley-Wright, Heather Pohnan and Maggie Shober. The text takes up most of the image to the right. And on the left, there are three smaller images stacked on top of each other: the top one shows a close-up of an AC, the second one shows light coming through ceiling windows, and the third image is of an energy meter.
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
SACE says the purpose of their report is to document recent policy developments and trends in electric utility efficiency data from 2020.

A recent analysis indicated it’s no coincidence the Southeast has among the highest electricity bills in the country, and the lowest investment in energy efficiency.

A nonprofit organization specializing in energy and environment policy released a report Monday that documents the efficiency of Southeast electric utilities in 2020. Energy efficiency programs lower costs for utility customers, while benefiting the environment.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy primarily studied portions of Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. The group considered total electric utility sales in 2020 with total kilowatt hours saved through efficiency programs.

Click here to download the "Energy Efficiency in the Southeast" fourth annual report

The Southeast tends to be the lowest performing region across the country, with Florida dragging down the regional average. On average, Florida saved just .09% of energy in 2020. The national average was eight times more than that at .72%.

During a webinar Tuesday, SACE representatives said the state's poor performance is a direct result of its policies.

Florida has two practices that makes it an outlier: It’s the only state that uses, for this particular purpose, the Ratepayer Impact Measure Test to screen for cost effectiveness, which ends up counting energy savings programs as negatives to a utility's total revenue.

Another policy that sets Florida apart from the rest of the country is the use of a screen, where any measure that pays back customers in two years or less is eliminated.

"It really is restricting energy efficiency, not growing it," said Forest Bradley-Wright, Energy Efficiency program director for SACE.

A screenshot of a slide detailing specific Florida utility information for 2020.
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy

The cost test Florida should be using, he said, is based on comparing how much money the utility spends on the efficiency programs to how much money those programs will ultimately save the utility system.

For instance, a program Duke Energy uses in North Carolina saved customers more than $600 million in 2017. And the utility received a performance incentive that amounted to 10.5% of that.

But in Florida, Duke Energy has no such program, said SACE’s energy policy manager, Heather Pohnan.

"This is a recurring theme that we see across many of our reports is the gap between Duke operating companies in the Carolinas and in Florida. This is mainly chalked up to state policy differences," she said.

SACE’s energy comparisons for 2020 found that Duke Energy saved about five times more energy in North Carolina than it did in Florida.

Every five years, Florida utilities must file energy-saving goals to the state’s Public Service Commission. The last time this was discussed was back in 2019, when utilities attempted to file goals of zero savings due to those two outlier policies that make it seem like the cost of efficiency is not worth the companies’ bottom lines.

That led the commission to initiate a proceeding to update regulations within the Florida Energy Efficiency Conservation Act for the first time in 30 years.

Bradley-Wright said that could be a positive step forward.

“There have been a series of filings recommending modernizing the energy efficiency policies and practices there to be in line with industry standard practice elsewhere in the country,” he said. “So that could lead to some important changes in savings in the future.”

Although, he said, the commission has not yet indicated its priorities or expectations.

“Ultimately, we don't yet know whether this will end up being a real reform, or if the policy practice will continue to hold energy efficiency back in Florida,” said Bradley-Wright.

The SACE analysis said, "saving energy is the least cost and most abundant solution to stabilize our climate and ensure equity in a clean energy future."

Since 2012, I’ve been a voice on public radio stations across Florida - in Miami, Fort Myers, and now Tampa.
WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.