Too many Florida businesses have experienced first-hand the financial strains of the twin public health and economic crises wrought by COVID-19. As our state looks for effective ways to recover and move forward, there’s a simple option that will save Florida’s businesses and families money while creating overall economic benefit: energy efficiency.
On average, 30 percent of the energy used by Florida’s commercial buildings is wasted. If energy were used more intelligently and responsibly, our state’s businesses could reduce this waste and save significant sums of money from the costs associated with it.
As a Florida green building consultant, I’ve guided plenty of clients in developing more energy-efficient buildings. I’ve also seen the positive long-term impact these updates have on both their business and our local community. Typically, the organizations I work with can improve energy performance by more than 20 percent by implementing energy efficiency upgrades in their buildings. We help them do so in a cost-effective manner, and ROI payback is often within a few years – even less for more intensive energy users.
There are plenty of energy efficiency options available, including enhanced insulation, smart lighting and HVAC controls, and efficient appliances, accompanied by simple behavioral changes. However, Florida’s businesses and families have limited access to many programs that would help them lower their energy use and, in turn, their utility bills. One issue is that Florida’s energy efficiency policies haven’t been updated in almost three decades. While utilities have offered some beneficial programs in the past, there is an opportunity to greatly expand these options and create even more energy savings.
The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) is currently reviewing energy efficiency goals that utilities must meet, and we can all weigh in on how these goals can be updated in ways that better serve Floridians. At PSC workshops, many industry experts from across Florida have provided input on this issue to help guide new policy.
One of the best ways we can improve these policies is by ensuring that they don’t create disincentives for utilities to make improvements. Instead, Florida should reward improvements that reduce utility bills for businesses and families alike. Combining incentives with actionable goal-setting for utilities will help put Florida on track for significant energy savings and economic growth.
Energy savings programs also create jobs that stay in Florida. Window caulking contractors, insulation installers, or folks like me who help design buildings with LEED certification have jobs that cannot be outsourced to some far-away contractor.
Better access to energy efficiency programs will also help Florida’s local communities achieve their clean energy goals. Many municipalities across the state are working toward clean energy resolutions, and energy efficiency can make their goals more attainable. With less demand for energy, it becomes easier for energy options like solar systems to fully meet the need.
From the state level down to the individual consumer, we have a lot to gain from having updated, effective policies regarding energy efficiency. Now is our chance to fix them. As we work to rebuild Florida businesses from the impacts of the pandemic, it’s never been more important that we seize that opportunity.
Sean Baraoidan is a project associate at Real Building Consultants, a green building design and construction consulting firm. You can learn more about this issue at EnergySmartFL.com.