Eduardo Balbis: From College Football Sideline to Dais, PSC Commissioner Tries to Make the Right Call
Around the State
When not on the front lines of Florida utilities’ challenges, Public Service Commissioner Eduardo Balbis can be found on a sideline … of college football, that is.
In his 18th year officiating one of America’s favorite games, the commissioner had the honor of making it into the post-season this past year. After seven seasons as a side judge at the collegiate level, Balbis participated in the Beef O'Brady Bowl in St. Petersburg, his first bowl assignment, where University of Central Florida topped Ball State 38-17.
Football is not all fun and games to the commissioner, who says his hobby helps him in his official role with the PSC. "My officiating experience can translate to the dais by helping me make difficult decisions, knowing full well that not everyone will be happy. However, what is most important is getting the call and the decision right.
“Most Floridians don’t completely understand that the Commission’s role is to maintain the balance between the needs of the utilities and its ratepayers,” continued Balbis, who has served on the PSC since 2010 when he was appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist. “What the public needs to be more greatly aware of is that the Public Service Commission is a quasi-judicial body. We resolve issues that arise regarding needs of the consumer and the utility providers.”
Balbis, along with four fellow commissioners, presides over a large number of docketed cases each year, as they have regulation authority over utilities providing electric, natural gas, telephone, water and wastewater services.
An environmental engineer, who studied at the University of Florida, he fully understands the delicate nature of achieving this balance while assuring fairness to both sides of any issue that arises. Before serving on the PSC, Balbis was an assistant city administrator for the city of West Palm Beach, where he gained significant experience with major projects, including upgrades to the quality of the city’s drinking water, development of a water-reuse program and working to preserve the critical ecosystems of South Florida.
An advocate for keeping the rates reasonable for Floridians, he said, “We encourage fuel diversity to minimize the effects of potential fuel price spikes as well as service interruptions.”
To that end, he and the PSC look at many forms of energy generation. “Few people probably know that about one-third of Florida’s renewable energy portfolio is met by waste to energy facilities,” he points out. “In fact, Florida has one of the largest biomass energy production facilities in North America. It’s a bonus for Florida, since we are using leftover waste products that would have ended up in our landfills to provide base load generation.”
As the PSC examines various issues that come before it, Balbis says their decisions factor in many things, including the current economy, bringing new businesses and jobs to Florida, safety of all systems, and developing demand-side conservation goals. Will there be enough energy to supply all the needs for Florida‘s consumers? The commissioner says the PSC’s goal is to meet these needs with high efficiency and cost effectiveness.
Balbis sees natural gas as an extremely important factor in the future of energy production for Florida. He thinks it is essential to have continuous energy production “when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.”
Unlike many South Floridians, Balbis is a lifelong resident of the state. He and his family now enjoy the friendly, community atmosphere in the state’s capital. Although, the commissioner travels back to South Florida and all over the country in his role as a side judge with Sun Belt conference. His typical football season consists of 12 games that entail flying to the game city on Friday evening and returning either on Saturday or Sunday.
Balbis was reappointed by Gov. Rick Scott for a term through Jan. 1, 2015.
Marilyn Naito writes special to Sunshine State News. Stay tuned for future profiles of PSC members.