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Sunday, August 18, 2019
FPL wants to confuse consumers about benefits of electricity market competition | Opinion by Nancy Argenziano (Sun Sentinel)
FPL wants to confuse consumers about benefits of electricity market competition | Opinion
By NANCY ARGENZIANO
SPECIAL TO THE SUN SENTINEL|
AUG 16, 2019 |4:13 PM
Florida Power and Light President and CEO Eric Silagy’s patently self-serving op-ed of July 31 relating to the energy choice amendment begs for a response. As a former Florida Representative, Senator, Florida Public Service Commissioner and Chair,1996-2010, permit me to furnish one.
Simply put, Mr. Silagy distorts the truth and utilizes scare tactics in an effort to confuse the public about the benefits of electric restructuring, solar, and consumer choice.
FPL, the 800-pound regulated industry gorilla, has enjoyed a long history of bending both the Legislature and the Florida PSC to its designs, to the detriment of its ratepayers.
During my term at the PSC, this was illustrated by FPL’s less than forthcoming presentations in FPL’s first rate case in almost two decades; its invention of “costs” to be borne by the ratepayer; FPL’s coziness with certain PSC commissioners, their staff, and some PSC general staff; and, its outrageous influence over legislators and legislative leadership.y
Disclosure: While other Commissioners and I were the subject of FPL opposition and its conspiracy with Associated Industries of Florida — of which FPL was a significant dues-paying member — to smear us, this was and is simply how this corporate citizen gets to do business under the then and current existing legislative model.
Lately, in its filing in connection with the “Solar Together” proposal, FPL yet again shows its colors when caught proposing to exclude from the program any ratepayer who had favored energy choice. Not disclosed was what Big Brother scheme would identify such a person.
Mr. Silagy makes claims generally without support. The one time he cites a source — the Federal Energy Information Administration — he uses their data to make a false comparison between FPL’s residential price and Texas’ residential price.
Using the EIA’s most recent data, the all-in price paid by Texas customers in competitive markets is about the same as that paid by FPL customers (11.11 cents per kilowatt hour for Texas retail providers; 11.20 for FPL). These figures, however, do not reflect a fair equivalence in provided product.
All-in prices include several costs besides the energy itself. Electric rates include costs such as delivery and maintenance, capital spending, and profit. Texas prices can also include services that customers choose to have bundled in, such as green energy, energy-efficient devices, and close use monitoring.
Florida prices include plants that were never built or failed to go into operation, the cost of regulatory and political spending, and waste, which doesn’t exist when a utility is focused on its particular service: in the case of energy competition, building and maintaining poles andwires.
And while Mr. Silagy’s comments paint a bleak picture of a utility providing distribution services only — poles and wires — FPL’s parent company, NextEra’s recent bid of $19 billion for a Texas poles-and-wires only utility (ONCOR) argues to the contrary.
The operative law for the monopolist provision of necessary utility services in this country was decided by the Supreme Court in 1923. During the ensuing 96 years, consumers have benefited from tremendous advances in technology in industries that allow competition — airlines, cell phones, computers, taxi service — Florida energy and consumers deserve the same opportunity.
NextEra already participates in competitive markets. While the amendment means FPL as a utility will not be able to directly own generation or serve customers, its affiliates can. NextEra’s company Gexa is one of the largest competitive retail providers in the United States.
Florida’s investor-owned utilities made more than $43 million in political contributions in the 2014 and 2016 election cycles, according to Integrity Florida and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
The energy choice ballot amendment deserves a 21st century audition. An analysis by the Perryman Group shows that Florida ratepayers would have saved $5 billion every year if choice had been available in 2016. That’s together with a 150 percent economic activity multiplier effect and 70,000 jobs enhancement.
It’s the responsibility of citizens to demand our representatives act ethically and in the best interest of their constituents. Not doing so will ultimately cost Florida ratepayers even more than the $5 billion a year estimated by Perryman, or the $6 billion, which I calculated in 2010, with which ratepayers are currently saddled.
We must not permit monopoly utilities to continue to oppose the best interests of Florida ratepayers when it comes to choice in the provision of energy.