High electricity bills add to the crippling financial burdens many Floridians are experiencing now, caught between historic inflation and higher prices at the pump. As a pastor, I have over time helped more Floridians pay unaffordable electricity bills than any other financial challenge.
Why is this? Simply: outdated public policy. It’s time to change course and embrace a lower-cost, lower-risk, cleaner energy future. To love my neighbors in need means both helping them out in a pinch and ending whatever is pinching them. And bad public policy is pinching Floridians hard.
Floridians have some of the highest electricity bills in the nation and need help reducing their energy use. Yet our state indulges some of the nation’s worst-performing electric utilities when it comes to helping customers reduce energy use through utility-led energy efficiency programs.
Outdated energy efficiency policies at the Florida Public Service Commission – the agency that sets energy savings goals for the state’s largest power companies – are a roadblock to commonsense energy solutions that would help everybody, and the environment, too.
Energy efficiency improvements, such as upgrading the A/C, adding insulation, reglazing windows, or using LED lighting, reduce energy use and make homes more comfortable, safe, and secure. These upgrades also help reduce overall electricity consumption, which means the utility burns less fossil fuel to generate electricity.
The energy savings would be a big win for customers by lowering their bills, and for the environment by reducing harmful emissions that threaten our health and exacerbate the global climate crisis.
Your power company is required to provide families and businesses with meaningful, cost-effective energy efficiency programs that help reduce overall electricity consumption. We’re supposed to be able to use less energy and save money on power bills. Yet Florida’s programs fall terribly short of the mark.
As one of the nation’s largest consumers of energy, Florida is nevertheless one of the least energy-efficient states. ACEEE’s 2020 Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard ranked the state’s three largest investor-owned electric utilities – Tampa Electric Company, Duke Energy Florida, and Florida Power & Light – at 46th, 48th, and 51st out of the 52 largest utilities nationwide in terms of program performance and savings. Those ratings are no accident. Utilities perform as public policies allow them.
The culprit is badly outdated state policies on setting energy efficiency goals for the state’s largest utilities. The policies were last updated before cell phones became popular – nearly 30 years ago. Every state in the nation has moved toward policies that require innovative and cost-effective energy solutions – all but for Florida.
The power companies willingly use the outdated policies as an excuse to do the least amount possible in capturing energy savings for customers. Current policies are wrongly rewarding poor energy savings performance, and the Public Services Commission must up its game on smarter energy consumption.
Help could be on the way. The Commission is finally revisiting these outdated policies. The commissioners are appointed by the governor, and we need them to help get hard-working families off the high-bill treadmill by modernizing energy efficiency policies.
We are called to care wisely for God’s creation and our neighbors. Scaling up energy efficiency is the quickest, cheapest, and cleanest way to meet customer energy demand and reduce emissions that are harming our natural environment and local communities. By using energy smarter, we can ensure energy savings for families while also protecting our air, water, and land for future generations.
Rev. Dr. Russell L. Meyer is the Executive Director of the Florida Council of Churches, convener of the Florida Interfaith Climate Actions Network.
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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Energy efficiency can bring Floridians the relief they need | Opinion