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Attorney General Candidate Speaks Out Against Energy Conservation Program Cuts

George Sheldon
Matthew Stolpe

A Democratic Florida attorney general candidate is speaking out against energy conservation program cuts. Power companies are asking regulators to allow the programs to be scaled back in favor of more cost-effective ventures.

Attorney general candidate George Sheldon is calling on the Public Service Commission to deny utility companies’ requests for lower energy-efficiency standards. The PSC regulates privately owned utilities. The commission is meeting this week with power companies, including Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy to re-evaluate conservation goals.

The power companies argue efforts like solar energy programs are expensive to run and suffer from low demand. Sheldon, however, says the utilities are motivated by money.

“To be honest with you, power companies don’t make their money from conservation. They make their money by underutilization of power plants, by building new power plants, and getting the customer to pay for it. It’s not where we ought to be going as a state,” Sheldon says.

The utility companies have proposed to construct new power plants, but haven’t entirely ruled out solar energy. Representatives for Duke Energy and FPL indicated interest in building community-wide solar offerings rather than panels on individual houses. Tampa Electric Co. Rates and Regulations Manager Howard Bryant says his company wonders whether large-scale solar arrays will be reliable and how they will affect system integrity.

“Those are questions we do not have answered, and we’re thinking through how’s the right way to develop those answers, because if you deploy it in such a manner that you create an unreliable situation, you have not done justice to your general body of rate payers,” Bryant says.

The PSC hearing is expected to conclude Wednesday with a ruling to come in the fall.