This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Florida is Going the Wrong Way on Energy Efficiency

I don't always watch the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, but when I do I usually learn something new. She does, after all, have a PhD in Political Science from Oxford and her staff seems good about fact-checking. So, I was truly brought up short by a piece tonight on her show about a vote by the Public Services Commission in Florida to dramatically lower the energy efficiency goals of power companies in that state, and more specifically to eliminate incentives for customers to switch to solar energy.
State regulators on Tuesday approved proposals to gut Florida’s energy-efficiency goals by more than 90 percent and to terminate solar rebate programs by the end of 2015, giving the investor-owned utilities virtually everything they wanted.
After almost two hours of debate, members of the state Public Service Commission voted 3-2 in support of staff recommendations that backed the proposals of Duke Energy Florida, Tampa Electric and Florida Power & Light.
In other words, when it comes to energy efficiency, Florida’s new goal is to move backwards – because that’s what the power companies want.
In practical terms, consumers who might receive rebates on the home installation of solar panels and/or energy-efficient appliances will suddenly see those offers disappear. And in the larger context, as the Tampa Tribune report explained, there’s a “growing perception that Florida’s government has stacked the deck in favor of old guard utilities.”
The on-air segment indicated that this is similar to changes made in Arizona, as well. In other words, two of the sunniest states in the U.S., who should be drawing a majority of energy from sunshine, are trying to go in the opposite direction. And don't forget that Duke Energy is one of the utility companies doing business in Florida and of course one of its former employees is now governor of North Carolina and helping there to reduce penalties for environmental degradation by power companies.

The problem is simple economics. In almost every community of the country, utility companies have a monopoly, or near monopoly, on the supply of energy. If there is one thing that monopolies don't like, it's competition, and that solar panel on your roof is competition. Something about this needs to change, and slowing down the purchase of solar panels is not it.

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