Florida in the Middle on Energy Efficiency. And That’s Okay.

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According to a recent report released by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), Florida ranks 25th nationally in energy efficiency. That has some readers worried that Florida in some ways lags behind in fully taking advantage of energy efficiency. However, that’s not exactly the case and, as usual, there is more to the story.

For example, ACEEE gives Florida just one point out of a possible twenty for utility policies that address energy efficiency. That likely is a direct effect of the Florida Public Service Commission’s decision in 2014 to scale back the energy efficiency goals of utilities. Regulators at that time also decided to alter a state solar rebate program, another decision that was panned by the environmental community.

“Overall we see room for improvement for them in a number of different policy areas,” Weston Berg, research analyst at the council and lead author of the scorecard report, said during a conference call with news reporters. Mr. Berg is almost certainly referring to ACEEE’s preference that Florida reinstitute energy efficiency regulations that collect money from customers for efficiency programs. Those are policies that earned some states high scores.

In December of 2014, we explained in a blog piece that “Energy efficiency is a useful instrument for helping meet power demand, but customers shouldn’t be asked to fund programs that are not cost-effective. If the Sierra Club and others had their way, for example, customers would have paid about $10 per month for energy efficiency programs. Some customers might support that, but such a program is not fair to the customer base at large and ultimately not a wise use of their dollars.”

That point still holds true today. Getting a better energy efficiency score from ACEEE doesn’t mean a lot if customers are forced to pay for it. It is also important to put Florida’s energy efficiency status in context. In 2015, Florida ranked 27th in ACEEE’s ranking. In 2014, the state ranked 28th. The current ranking of 25th is consistent with the state’s ranking for the past few years. Florida certainly isn’t going backwards in term of energy efficiency.

It is also important to realize that states rewarded by ACEEE with high scores also tend to have higher power prices. We revealed this correlation in a 2014 white paper on energy efficiency, one that laid out PACE’s preferences for the right way to approach efficiency without burdening customers.

Read PACE’s White Paper Here

Still today, Florida ranks near the middle nationally in terms of the average price of power. States with great scores from ACEEE in terms of energy efficiency? States like Massachusetts, California, Vermont, and New York? Customers in those states pay some of the highest electricity prices in the nation, anywhere form 3¢ to 6¢ more than Florida customers per kilowatt-hour of electricity. That doesn’t mean, of course, that energy efficiency programs necessarily cause power prices to skyrocket. It does mean, though, that states should be careful about which examples they follow.

The old saying goes that you get what you pay for. But when it comes to energy efficiency scores, you pay for what you get.