TALLAHASSEE -- More than 100 people are expected to protest the Public Service Commission proposal to cut energy-saving programs and the PSC decision to close a meeting where the proposal will be discussed.
The PSC blocked public participation in hearings at 1 p.m. Monday at 2540 Shumard Oak Blvd., Tallahassee.
So, advocates say they will record testimony with a court reporter to submit as formal comments.
Manatee County resident Mary Sheppard said she will attend the protest. She serves on the Sierra Club Executive Committee and says she's against cutting energy-saving programs.
"I really know that FP&L, Duke Energy and all of these (businesses) are doing it for their bottom line and they're not doing it for us to have cleaner air to breathe -- for our health," Sheppard said. "The power companies need to work with us -- the customers. We ought to be using good judgment to reduce pollution."
Cutting the energy-savings programs is not expected to save consumers money.
"In the long term, peoples' power bills are going to go up... there won't be any relief to prevent them from going up," said Sierra Club spokeswoman Jenna Garland over the phone Sunday afternoon. "The utilities (companies) are proposing cutbacks to these energy-saving programs. This is a huge prob
lem because these programs help save people money on their power bills."
Garland also expressed disappointment in the PSC closing the hearing.
"People have the right to speak up about programs that will save them money," she said. "The public cares about this issue... what we hope is that when we get more than 100 folks out there, they're going to recognize what these energy-saving programs bring to Floridians."
Florida Power & Light spokeswoman Alys Daly said some programs are no longer needed and are not considered cost-effective.
"Across the county, people and businesses are becoming increasingly more energy efficient as a result of stricter building codes, advanced lighting, appliances and other products," Daly said over the phone Sunday night. "These marketplace changes make it increasingly difficult to offer cost-effective programs."
According to Daly, FP&L always works to provide customers with reliable service and affordable electricity.
Established in 1892 by the late conservationist John Muir, the Sierra Club is one of the nation's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organizations. The Sierra Club is organizing the rally alongside the Sunshine State Clean Energy Coalition, which is an alliance of environmental, business, health, faith-based and other watchdog groups devoted to the future of energy in Florida.
The PSC has the final word on whether the energy savings goals of individual power companies will be strengthened, maintained or weakened, Garland said.
According to the Sierra Club, the programs save consumers money on monthly power bills, support cleaner, healthier air quality and create jobs.
One program in danger of being cut is Florida Power & Light's solar program, which offers a rebate for customers installing home solar water heating systems. FP&L's website bills the program as part of a pilot program authorized by the Public Service Commission "to promote clean solar power and reduce energy consumption."
Garland said these cuts should be rejected and utilities required to strengthen the energy-saving programs.
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.