The Honorable Ronald A. Brisé has been a member of the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) since 2010 and has served as Chair of the Commission since December 2011. Prior to beginning his work at the PSC he represented District 108 in the Florida House of Representatives for four years. During his tenure, Chairman Brisé was named Democratic Whip and served as Vice Chairman of the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators.
Recently, Politic365 named Brisé to its list of 2012-2013 Game Changers. In an interview with Politic365 editor-in-chief Kristal High, Brisé discussed Florida’s energy future and the role he and the agency have in shaping it as well as ensuring reliable, effective, and affordable energy is always available.
Q: Could you talk about your top-priority issues, and how do you think they all tie together? What do you plan on focusing on in general?
A: One of the issues we are dealing with generally is the continued need for more power, energy, and electricity. Also we have to look at where were getting that energy from, whether it’s coal, Nuclear, Natural Gas, or somewhere within the renewable space. The movement towards Natural Gas has had an impact and will continue to have an impact for the foreseeable future on what types of plants will be built. As we start to step away from coal we find that natural gas plants will replace many of the coal plants. We also have a pretty active nuclear fleet. A lot of discussion has been had over Nuclear Power in the legislature. My job as commissioner isn’t to decide whether Nuclear Power is the right or wrong way to go from a policy perspective, but whether it is the right way to go from an economic and a reliability perspective. So those are some of the major issues that we are dealing with this year. The most important factor in these issues is the process. Making sure that the process is open, that it’s inclusive, that it’s transparent, and that from a process perspective it’s predictable.
Q: Do you think that consumers are well educated on these issues? What do you think that consumers need to become aware of?
A: That’s always the challenging part, how engaged do consumers have to be? I generally believe that consumers know, and take an interest when they know when something affects them in a way that they were not affected before. I can say that in Florida there has been a lot of consumer interest in many of the dockets that we have dealt with in 2012. I can see that there will be a lot of interest in the dockets that will be presented in 2013. I do believe that in this administration we have to do everything within our power to make sure that the consumer is aware of our processes and how to get engaged. I believe that companies also try to do the same. There are other consumer groups such as AARP that get the public interested and engaged in the conversation, unfortunately these only last for a moment even though it would be beneficial to keep the conversation continuing. This would keep the consumer engaged and allow them the opportunity to understand other issues as they come up.
Q: Given that consumer dynamic, and the depth of the issues that are on your plate right now, what are your biggest concerns for Florida’s energy future from a regulatory, substance and a process standpoint?
A: I think that from a process standpoint we’re in a decent place. From a regulatory standpoint we are aware of where we need to be. From a substance standpoint there is a lot that we still need to talk about. Do we need a state that is on the verge of being 70% dependent on Natural Gas? What happens if for some reason the price of Natural Gas suddenly spikes? How do we deal with that possible reality? So that’s an area that I frankly have concerns about. The other question is how do we further integrate renewables into our grid in a way that makes sense for every consumer that doesn’t minimize or reduce the level of reliability that we have across the system? So those are issues that exist and in some ways are sort of frictional issues. We are the sunshine state we have sun year round, so you would think we would have the most solar energy, but the reality is that it shines some days and it doesn’t, and part of the tension is what you would do when it doesn’t? Would you have enough baseline energy, and who would pay for that when it’s not being produced. So those are some of the competing factors that exist within that sphere. Then there is the bigger issue of Nuclear. Do you support building something that you might not be around to see? With all of these changing dynamics in the energy sphere would Nuclear be a good investment. So those are some of the tough questions that policy makers have to answer. Every year we have to ask whether a project makes sense in the current environment.
Q: All things considered when you look at the legacy you are leaving what are the things that you want to ultimately become known for playing into your overall vision of how you advocate for reliable, effective, and affordable energy?
A: I came to this space from the legislature. My mantra there was be accessible and very practical, and pursue policy that works for the public interest. I think that carries over for what I do here…At this point we have gotten the process to where it needs to be which is transparent, thoughtful, and open to all those who want to participate. That’s one of the things I hope would be part of my legacy here at the commission. The other component to that is that we make common sense decisions. We know that not everyone is going to agree with us, but at least these decisions will always be in the public interest. The decision isn’t just about today, it’s about today, tomorrow, and also twenty-years from now. So I hope that my legacy here will be viewed as someone who was willing to challenge the status quo just to make common sense decisions.