Study shows conservation measures could slash energy use

By Bruce Ritchie

Floridians could reduce summer peak energy demand equivalent to the output of more than 10 new nuclear power units, according to preliminary study results presented Monday to the Florida Public Service Commission.

The Itron consulting group of Oakland, Ca., analyzed the technical potential of various energy conservation alternatives. The consultants said summer peak energy use theoretically could be reduced by 14,000 megawatts in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors using all potential conservation measures.

But the study, which was paid for by the state’s seven largest utilities, didn’t analyze the economic potential of the various alternatives. That analysis will occur next year prior to the setting of conservation goals in April 2009.

The seven largest utilities paid for the study, which is performed periodically under Florida law. Two environmental groups, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the Natural Resources Defense Council, also collaborated in the study.

The utilities will use the studies to finalize goals in May 2009 for reducing peak energy demand.

Sixty-one percent of the energy conservation could be achieved in homes compared to 34 percent in commercial buildings and 5 percent in industrial settings, according to the study.

The use of compact fluorescent light bulbs is one of the cheapest household conservation measures. Double-pained windows with film to reduce solar heating could be key to keeping homes cool in the summer, said Mike Ting, a consultant with Itron.

“They are not necessarily providing insulation power,” Ting said. “They are preventing solar heating gain.”

High-efficiency water heaters were identified among the more expensive conservation measures.

Chris Maingot, legislative chair for the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, said the study appeared to have overpriced the cost of home solar water heaters. And he said home solar electric systems were not included in the study results.

“Utilities told them not to include it (solar electric),” said Suzanne Brownless, an attorney representing the association.

Ting said solar electric was not included in the initial study requested by the utilities but will be included in the final study results at the request of Public Service Commission staff. He referred questions about the initial request to Florida Power & Light Co. A company spokesman said solar photovoltaic was initially excluded because of the high out-of-pocket expenses.

Tom Larson, Florida energy policy manager for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said he hopes the study encourages companies and investors to see the value in producing conservation technologies for the marketplace.

He said environmental groups want to make sure energy-saving measures are not excluded too quickly by the conservative investor-owned utilities.

“We are in kind of an interesting position where we want to try to be as close to the study as we can yet remain a little bit circumspect,” he said. “I think they (utilities) are glad to have us in that dialogue but we are not all holding arms and marching together.”

Contact Reporter Bruce Ritchie at or 850-385-1774.

Text copyright by Bruce Ritchie. Photo of compact fluorescent bulbs courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.