Duke Energy Commits to New Measures to Protect Financially Stressed Floridians
Agreement signed with climate advocates provides landmark protections
Florida — Following negotiations with Vote Solar, The CLEO Institute, and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Duke Energy Florida has agreed to pursue a number of energy measures to assist vulnerable customers, many of whom are still suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the agreement’s provisions is a commitment by Duke Energy not to disconnect power due to nonpayment on days when the heat index is forecasted at 105 degrees or a dangerous hurricane or tropical storm threatens residents. Unlike many other states, Florida currently has no protections for residents from power shut-offs during extreme temperature days, unless utilities voluntarily adopt them.
“Power disconnects — particularly in areas of Florida most impacted by rising temperatures due to climate change — can be a matter of life or death,” says Katie Chiles Ottenweller, Vote Solar’s Southeast Director. “Nobody should be put in harm’s way because of an unaffordable utility bill. We thank Duke Energy for putting these protections in place and hope other utilities will do the same.”
Additional measures, to be filed for Commission approval, will expand access to clean energy technologies that help lower electric bills for low-income customers, with the goal of mitigating the economic burden caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Under the agreement, Duke Energy will expand its weatherization program for low income residences; increase incentives for low income customers who are in arrears to participate in demand response programs that save participants money; and provide free energy-saving tools like LED light bulbs and energy-saving power strips to low income customers.
“Energy justice and economic justice are inextricably intertwined. The measures in this agreement will provide financial support to those most impacted by both the COVID crisis and the climate crisis,” says Yoca Arditi-Rocha, Executive Director of the CLEO Institute. “While there is still much ahead to be done, we’re extremely encouraged by the steps taken to ease the energy burden for Florida’s most vulnerable communities.”
The agreement comes at a time when unprecedented numbers of Floridians are behind on their electric bills due to COVID economic impacts – including over 20,000 customers in Duke Energy’s service territory alone. By targeting low income customers who are in arrears on their electric bills, the measures mobilize clean energy options to help the most vulnerable Floridians get back on their feet, and then keep bills down going forward.
“Clean and efficient energy technologies such as smart thermostats, LED light bulbs, and weatherization solutions aren’t a luxury for the few – rather, they are critical building blocks of energy security for our most vulnerable,” says Ottenweller. “This agreement is an important step in recognizing that, and we’re happy to be a part of it.”
The agreement has been filed with the Florida Public Service Commission related to Duke Energy’s 2021 rate case; measures requiring Commission approval will be filed shortly after the conclusion of the case.