lorida right-wing state regulators launched an attack against solar energy on Nov. 25, when they approved proposals to slash the state’s energy efficiency goals by over 90 percent and terminate solar rebate programs by the end of 2015. This was done in order to appease investor-owned utilities that contribute to climate change, including Duke Energy, Tampa Electric, and Florida Power & Light (FPL) – the three companies that submitted the proposal.
The decision came after two hours of debate, with members of the state Public Service Commission (PSC) voting 3-2 in favor of the plan. The two commissioners who gave a “No” vote were Lisa Edgar and Julie Brown, who said that they would not agree with a plan that altered state energy policy so severely. “It’s not the direction I would go in,” Edgar remarked.
Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), which stood in opposition to the utility proposals, said this was “completely inconsistent with what the other states are doing. We believe there may have been laws broken today by not setting goals.” In other words, he underscored the need for utilities, under law, to have some policy for meeting energy efficiency requirements. “It’s a very sad day for the state of Florida,” he concluded.
What this means is that the Sunshine State, which has been called “ground zero for climate change” by some environmental experts, will see less clean energy projects and further development of utilities that promote the use of fossil fuels. The state PSC approved Duke Energy for a $1.5 billion natural gas plant that will replace a disused nuclear plant in Crystal River, Florida. Duke, along with the other two companies, insisted during their proposals that solar rebate programs are not cost-effective, and argued that they would furthermore reduce rates for customers starting Jan. 1. That “reduction” is a meager 16 cents for Duke ratepayers, $1.14 for Tampa Electric, and $1.94 for FPL. And most of those savings, reported the Tampa Bay Times, are the result of lower fuel prices, which are beyond the utilities’ control anyway.