If Florida makes energy efficiency a priority, we’ll save money and combat climate change | Opinion

The state of Florida uses more energy than it produces
The state of Florida uses more energy than it produces Getty Images

Florida is at a critical energy turning point. The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) is reviewing the Florida Energy Efficiency Conservation Act (FEECA), which means it can establish better energy efficiency goals for our utilities and improve how they are measuring energy efficiency.

The PSC can meet our state’s energy needs, cut Floridians’ energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making our state more energy efficient.

Sound energy policy is a key component to maintaining a balanced energy budget. Florida uses more energy than it produces. We can ensure supply meets demand by increasing the state’s energy supply or decreasing its demand through energy-efficiency measures. Our state benefits more if energy efficiency is a priority.

Increasing supply requires building more power plants that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and run on fuel that is purchased out-of-state. Furthermore, power plants contaminate the air we breathe and exacerbate climate change. While some utilities prefer this option, it is an expensive and pollutant-intensive method to meet our energy needs.

A better way to balance the state’s energy budget is to decrease energy demand. Utilities can eliminate energy waste by offering programs that help or incentivize residents to be more energy efficient by taking measures such as replacing old water heaters, fixing air conditioners and adding insulation to ceilings and walls. This approach is the simplest, least expensive way to meet our energy needs. These measures not only reduce energy demand, they also shrink electric bills and reduce environmental impact.

To ensure Florida’s energy budget is and continues to be properly balanced, we need metrics for evaluating energy-efficiency programs and measuring progress. Our utilities use the Rate Impact Measure test as a primary cost-effectiveness test to evaluate energy-efficiency programs. In other states, the most widely used tests include the Total Resource Cost test and the Societal Cost test. These other methods are preferred, providing a more-holistic evaluation of the costs and benefits of energy efficiency programs. It is imperative to incorporate health and environmental benefits in our cost effectiveness testing.

Other states have meaningful energy savings goals and better options to evaluate the cost effectiveness of energy efficiency programs. Missouri and Utah had net incremental electricity savings rates eight to nine times higher than Florida’s savings rate (which was only 0.09 percent) in 2017, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy 2018 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.

By making energy efficiency their top priority, the PSC can and should make Florida a national leader in energy policy. I am proud that Miami Beach’s mayor and commission unanimously adopted a resolution I sponsored on July 17 urging the PSC to set meaningful energy-efficiency goals in the FEECA proceedings.

Several other cities and counties, including Miramar, Coral Gables, Largo, Dunedin, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Miami-Dade County, Broward County, among others, have also urged the PSC to take action, which it should

Mark Samuelian is a Miami Beach commissioner and chair of the Sustainability & Resiliency Committee.