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Walmart And Other Big Energy Users Want Out of Florida’s Conservation Program, Claiming They Can Do Better

| July 22, 2015

Walmart claims its own way of conserving energy should spare it the charge it must pay on its monthly bills for a conservation program. (© FlaglerLive)

Walmart claims its own way of conserving energy should spare it the charge it must pay on its monthly bills for a conservation program. (© FlaglerLive)

Wal-Mart and a group representing other large users of electricity say they can do a better job of saving energy if state regulators would let them opt out of a nearly 35-year-old conservation program.

However, the state’s most influential energy providers told the Florida Public Service Commission on Wednesday that such a one-sided proposal would shift costs to small businesses and residential customers. And an environmental group says the “radical” proposal could further diminish conservation efforts in Florida.

The commission, which is waiting for a staff recommendation on the proposal, isn’t expected to rule until September or early fall on the opt-out proposals from Wal-Mart and the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, which represents large electricity users.

The opposing camps squared off Wednesday over the potential impacts of separating the energy-efficiency payments and the demand-side management programs that are part of the Florida Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act. Since 1981, the act has allowed Florida’s investor-owned electric utilities to recover more than $6 billion to pay for conservation expenditures in the demand-side management programs, which includes rebates and incentives for energy-efficiency initiatives.

The conservation efforts have been credited for reducing both winter and summer peak power demands.

The proposal would allow Wal-Mart, as well as others that use massive amounts of energy — including large grocers, cement manufacturers and phosphorous companies — to opt out of paying the energy conservation charge on their bills.

Wal-Mart attorney Robert Scheffel Wright and Jon Moyle, representing the large energy user group, noted there are models Florida could emulate. A number of other states have similar opt-out programs.

Moyle and Wright said that if Florida’s opt-out program is properly managed, through measures such as requiring companies to hire professional engineers to certify that energy-efficiency goals are being met, costs wouldn’t fall to other users, as Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light, Tampa Electric and Gulf Power contend.

In fact, Wright and Moyle added that the large energy users will probably exceed the state minimums if they’re allowed to run their own conservation programs.

Customers would “have to meet the utilities energy percentage savings goals as established by your decisions,” Wright told commissioners. “So opt-out cannot result in any less energy conservation than utilities programs and can reasonably be expected to produce more savings, because we’ll probably be doing a cushion and doing more than the minimum specified by your goals.”

Kenneth Baker, a Wal-Mart corporate senior manager, testified before the commission that the company already runs a number of energy-efficiency programs on its own. And, he added that by being forced to pay into the rebate program, they don’t have money for other “innovations” that could be implemented to conserve power.

“We tend to pay into the rebate program … much higher numbers than we get back in rebates,” Baker said. “I think that some of the money that we’re now spending on rebates could go towards other energy-efficiency measures.”

The demand-side management program allows consumers who participate to receive rebates for improvements such as reflective roofing, new heat pumps and motors, attic insulation and air-conditioning upgrades. The intent of the program is to reduce the overall demand for power.

Representatives from the power companies declined to provide estimates on how much the rebate programs costs private companies like Wal-Mart. Nor could they give “a good estimate” on the impact to remaining customers if large users are able to opt out of the conservation program.

FPL executive Thomas Koch told the commission the costs could be in the millions of dollars just for the administrative changes to the conservation programs. And he said that while different states have various opt-out proposals, each is different and shouldn’t simply be used to consider whether to put such a program in place in Florida.

“Just because somebody else did it doesn’t mean it’s a good thing for Florida,” Koch said.

Dianne Triplett, representing Duke Energy Florida, said the state needs to maintain clear guidelines that are fair to all customers.

Jessica Cano, representing Juno Beach-based Florida Power & Light Co., the state’s largest energy provider, said Wal-Mart and other large energy users can continue to seek energy-saving measures without shifting costs to those remaining in the programs.

“And of course, Wal-Mart and FIPUG are not requesting to opt out of the (demand-side management) programs from which they receive bill credits paid for from the general body of customers,” Cano noted.

George Cavros, representing the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, an environmental group, argued that such a “radical policy change” would “further erode energy efficiency as a resource in Florida.”

He argued that more hearings and analysis, including input from experts for states that have similar programs, are needed before the commission completes its review.

The Southern Alliance is backing a constitutional amendment that would allow businesses such as Wal-Mart to generate and sell a small amount of solar power to customers on the same or neighboring properties.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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8 Responses for “Walmart And Other Big Energy Users Want Out of Florida’s Conservation Program, Claiming They Can Do Better”

  1. Sherry E says:

    Walmart’s NET income for 2014 was over 16 BILLION dollars!!!

    What a ridiculous argument Walmart is making! Our current regulations are NOT stopping them from taking measures to be more energy efficient at all. Why do they need to “opt out” of paying into the rebate in order to take more energy efficient measures? Why do they not pay their workers a living wage and good benefits?

    GREED! GREED! GREED! Profits over people!

  2. PeachesMcGee says:

    With the amount of money these corporations spend on energy I would imagine that their own engineers could do better.

    It’s all about the bottom line after all.

  3. Lancer says:

    In the mind of the left “profits” are a bad thing indeed. Less profits be used to expand businesses, hire employees, provide more choices for consumers, offset unbudgeted costs and *GASP* provide investors with a dividend. Not understanding finance 101 is just another reason the left can’t be trusted with anything approaching the sophistication of a pocket calculator.

    Have any idea what a box store the size of Wal-Mart pays a month for their electric bill? 0bama’s attack on coal producing electric plants with no foreseeable alternative in place. The EPA’s constant increasing regulations on HVAC systems.

    A 50,000 square foot building with 20 foot ceilings with sky lights. FPLs demand rate starts at 21KwD. Wal Mart isn’t the only one in this fight, they’re just the loudest. Every box store with a higher KwD rate is feeling the crunch…HD, Lowes, virtually every grocery store, strip mall, large retailer and movie theater across the country.

    In leftist la la land, the boogie man is the business…and they should pay…out of their “obscene profits”!

    Reality? The businesses raise prices, to offset costs, to the consumer. Power bills are simply costs of doing business. Of course, these businesses could do better. Reducing their power bills is in the best interest of themselves.

    • snapperhead says:

      As the article noted Walmart and the big energy users are only wanting to opt of of paying into the energy saving rebate program but still want to collect the rebates associated with energy saving initiatives.

      “And of course, Wal-Mart and FIPUG are not requesting to opt out of the (demand-side management) programs from which they receive bill credits paid for from the general body of customers,” Cano noted.

  4. Sherry E says:

    AGAIN. . . Walmart’s NET (for those that don’t know their debits from their credits) NET profits, AFTER ALL expenses (INCLUDING ELECTRICITY) were over 16 BILLION dollars last year!

    To all the macho conservative men out there. . . As a proud liberal, educated female. . . who manages her own substantial investments in the stock market very well, Thank You. . . I would prefer to see a little less in my dividends and have companies pay their employees a decent wage. I know such largess is a foreign concept to those who care absolutely nothing for their fellow human beings or for our planet.

    Good wages make for a stronger economy in a capitalistic system. . . THAT, Sir, is Economics 101!!!!

    Regarding electrical costs, Walmart (and all companies) already have a vested interest in saving money on their energy costs. . . it’s called the Bottom Line! What is stopping them from doing just that, without asking for money back from “conservation programs” that protect our environment? This is just more political arm twisting! It’s not an “either” or “question”! It’s just a matter of how much the GREEDY insist on maximizing their NET profits at the expense of our environment!

  5. Lancer says:

    Here’s the difference between “conservative men” and you, Sherry…we don’t tell you what we think you ought to do with your property. We also don’t vote for glorified theives to take your property and infringe on your rights.

    If you don’t want your dividends, if you think your taxes too low, if you wish to fund someone else’s health insurance…write the check!

  6. Sherry E says:

    NO. . . Lancer. . . much worse. . . conservatives try to tell women what to do with their own BODIES!

    I do write the check. . . all the time. . . to support those in need. . . question is, why don’t you?

  7. Sherry E says:

    NO. . . I want you Lancer and the Billionaire 1% in our country to start “writing the checks”/ pay their fair share!

    I want the GREEDY ONE PERCENT to support our citizens (who are also their customers), and our nation by paying a living wage and supporting our environment !!! If that means dipping into their obscene profits, then so be it!

    Your position, Lancer, is an anathema to any any humanitarian who still believe’s in the “American Dream” !

    Debating further with people (read idiot here, if you find it more descriptive) like you are a complete waste of my time. Therefore, you will not hear from me further.

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