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Report: Fla. Remains 1 Of Nation’s Lowest-Performing States For Utility Energy Efficiency

JEA's downtown Jacksonville headquarters.
Bill Bortzfield
/
WJCT News
JEA's downtown Jacksonville headquarters.

A new report finds that Florida is one of the nation’s lowest-performing states when it comes to utility energy efficiency, echoing the findings of the previous year’s report.

Additionally, the third annual “Energy Efficiency in the Southeast” report from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) released this week, finds that just three utilities account for nearly 75% of all efficiency savings in the Southeast U.S. — Duke Energy Carolinas, Duke Energy Progress and Georgia Power — and some of the biggest utilities are contributing “almost nothing.”

 

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Credit SACE

JEA is doing much better than the state when it comes to energy efficiency, according to the report, and even sits above the regional average. However, Jacksonville’s city-owned utility is still below the national average.

 

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Credit SACE

Every year the SACE compiles this report, looking at how nearly 500 electric utilities in the Southeast are doing in terms of energy efficiency, which by reducing energy consumption can help reduce carbon emissions — thus helping to fight climate change — and lower customer bills.

“The greenest electron is the electron you never use. Energy efficiency is that,” SACE Executive Director Stephen Smith explained.

Related: JEA To Public Service Commission: ‘There Are No Achievable Savings For Energy Efficiency’

Florida, which the new report ranks as one of the worst states in the nation for utility efficiency, has not updated its efficiency policies in nearly three decades and Floridians have some of the highest power bills in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

 

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Credit SACE

“Florida has over one third of the region's population. It is by far the largest state [in the Southeast] and yet it captured less savings than South Carolina, which has just one quarter of the population,” said Forest Bradley-Wright, SACE’s Energy Efficiency Director. “It’s less than half of the regional average. It’s about a fifth of the national average.”

However, on July 7, 2020, the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) — which regulates Florida’s privately operated utilities and to a lesser extent their municipal counterparts — directed staff to begin a rule-making process that could change the state’s energy efficiency practices going forward.

“If we're going to see a change in performance, it is necessarily going to come from Florida embracing more modern and industry standard practices for efficiency with its new rules,” Bradley-Wright said.

Related: Utility Regulators Urged To Hold Workshops Before Rewriting Energy Efficiency Rules

The data for this report is from 2019, so it does not include efficiency statistics from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“At a time when COVID-19 and the climate crisis are exacerbating energy inequity, intensifying the focus on efficiency solutions for the Southeast is imperative,” SACE Communications Manager Amy Rawe wrote in an email to WJCT News.

Only Alabama did worse than Florida in last year’s report on the Southeast.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.