We’ve always known that energy efficiency is the cheapest, quickest, and cleanest way to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. Now, one of Florida’s largest counties is asking the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to set meaningful energy efficiency goals for Florida Power and Light (FPL) to help the county meet its GHG pollution reduction targets.
Broward County, long a leader on climate mitigation and adaptation, is aiming for countywide GHG emissions reduction resulting in GHG levels that are 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 82 percent below 2003 levels by 2050. To get there, it has to reduce GHG pollution from the electricity sector, which accounts for over 50 percent of the county’s GHG emissions. The County has been doing its part by reducing emissions from its governmental operations with measures that include replacing street lights with LED bulbs, requiring new County buildings to be constructed to LEED standards, and hosting public education campaigns. As the energy savings from efficiency measures increase, GHG emissions decrease.
Unfortunately, governmental operations only account for a portion of the GHG pollution from electricity use within county borders. The vast majority of electricity consumption in Broward County comes from residential, commercial and industrial customers of FPL. So, it’s clear that in order to reach its emission reduction goals, the County needs the cooperation of FPL.
The energy efficiency options offered to FPL customers who want to save money on their bills by slashing their energy use, and reduce their carbon footprint, are determined by the conservation goals set by the Florida PSC. These goals will be set this year for the state’s biggest power companies, including FPL.
So how does FPL fare relative to other peer utilities in meeting electricity demand with energy efficiency programs? The answer is not so well. The energy savings from Gulf Power Company, another Florida investor-owned utility, is three times that of FPL. In fact, there are 20 states that have electric companies achieving at least 5 times the energy savings of FPL.
That’s why the Broward County Commission unanimously approved a letter to the Florida PSC calling on the agency to set meaningful goals for its hometown utility. Simply put, the county needs FPL to offer more and better-designed energy efficiency programs in order to for Broward County to meet its reduction targets.
The letter was sent none too soon, as southeast Florida is on the front line of climate change impacts. The region is at risk of impacts from rising seas that include infrastructure damage, saltwater intrusion and flood control challenges. Broward County has been a driving force in the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, a four-county partnership to actively plan adaptation and mitigation strategies necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
While the Florida PSC’s purview doesn’t include GHG pollution reduction, it is tasked with encouraging the use of low-cost, low-risk resources that provide reasonable rates for electricity customers. The setting of meaningful efficiency goals, like those already being achieved by leading utilities in Florida and other states, would be both a win for customers, by helping them reduce their electric bills and energy use, and to regional, national and international efforts to reduce GHG pollution from the electricity sector. We hope that the PSC takes its public service responsibility seriously and passes meaningful energy efficiency goals, which will in turn help allow Broward County and its 1.8 million citizens meet their own collective goals.
– Chris Carnevale, SACE Coastal Climate and Energy Coordinator, contributed to this blog post.