April 2008

Message from the Director:
Florida Should Invest in Energy-Efficient Homes, Not Nuclear
Power Plants

Photo of James Fenton.
FSEC Director, James Fenton

Florida is planning to build more large-scale nuclear power plants to help reduce the state’s carbon footprint.

This means Florida will not be building any new coal power plants, which is good news. On the other hand, ten years will pass before these nuclear power plants even turn on, and we’ll be using more energy from natural gas plants in the meantime. While natural gas power plants leave a much smaller carbon footprint than coal power plants, the rising price of natural gas will cause our electricity costs to skyrocket. Today, we pay about 12 cents per kilowatt-hour. How much will we be paying five years from now? Can we afford to wait ten years for a nuclear power plant to provide our electricity, even if it produces little to no carbon emissions?

We should focus on using less energy rather than trying to find alternative ways to produce energy. Since 51percent of Florida's electricity needs come from our homes, we should make our existing homes more energy-efficient rather than building more power plants.

You can increase your home’s energy efficiency without drastically changing your home or lifestyle, and the results are immediate. Simple changes, such as installing high-efficiency windows and air- conditioning units, upgrading home insulation systems, using compact fluorescent light bulbs, and installing solar hot water systems and Energy Star appliances, can make a huge difference in your home’s energy consumption. Plus, you don’t have to wait 10 years to start seeing the advantages of having an energy-efficient home. Once your home is made more energy-efficient, you’ll start seeing the savings right away.

FSEC was recently awarded the Energy Star® for Homes, Leadership in Housing Award for training the home energy raters who rated almost 1,400 energy-efficient homes in 2007. These 1,400 energy-efficient homes are equivalent to eliminating emissions from 972 vehicles, saving 533,376 pounds of coal, and planting 139 acres of trees, all with a savings of $620,883 on the homeowners’ annual energy bills.

Photo of 100-dollar bills and a house.
Home energy efficiency improvements are a smart investment — they will reduce energy costs and
pay for themselves.

This is a tremendous amount of savings for improvements to less than two percent of Florida’s existing homes. If all of Florida’s 8.5 million homeowners made a number of small energy-efficient improvements, at the end of a 10-year period, each home will save more than 70,000 kilowatt-hours, cutting back energy costs by $13-14 billion. Before any of the proposed nuclear plants start generating power, enough energy will be saved to eliminate the need for 10 nuclear power plants, totaling 10,000 megawatts.

A state full of energy-efficient homes would not only significantly reduce energy costs – which are expected to rise considerably – but it would help Florida’s economy. Money would be spent within the state on the installation of energy-efficient technologies instead of shipping money out of the state to purchase fossil fuels. Keeping money in Florida and using it to reconstruct our existing homes would stimulate the state’s ailing economy and cause employment rates to rise with the increase in demand for labor as more homes are made energy-efficient.

You’re probably thinking, “That’s all well and good, but where’s the money to do all this coming from?” Look at it this way:

Photo of nuclear power plant; Timeshare text on top.

Proposed nuclear power plants in Florida will take ten years to build and cost each consumer $10,000.

The estimated cost of two proposed nuclear plants in Florida, which would serve 1.7 million customers, is $17 billion. The utility company would charge customers “advance recovery costs” of about $9 per month during the next 10 years to pay for the capital carrying costs – almost 10 percent of total estimated costs – while the nuclear plants are under construction. Over the approximate 30-year lifetime of the nuclear power plants, the cost to the consumer is about $10,000 – paying $1,000 as a “construction loan” before the plant is built, and then $10,000 after it’s built, like a 30-year mortgage.

If we used that same method of financing, a 30-year loan to you, for $10,000 of cost-effective, energy-efficient modifications on your home, your monthly loan payment and new electric bill combined would be far less than your existing electric bill. Rather than owning a “timeshare” in a nuclear power plant, you’ll retain your wealth in your home, pay lower energy bills, contribute to Florida’s economy and create new jobs, and do your part to alleviate global warming.

So if the financing aspect of energy efficiency is the only thing holding you back, don’t let it! Think of where that money will go if we don’t make our homes energy efficient – straight toward a “timeshare” nobody will want. Will that large power plant arriving in ten years lower your monthly energy bill? Will it lead to energy independence? Will it save the planet?