FPL Rate Hearings Start This Week, Run From June 2-29

George Cavros | June 1, 2016 | Energy Policy

This is an original blog that we are re-posting now that the hearing dates are set to begin.

Hey FPL customers – Make Your Voice Heard!

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) – the agency charged with regulating the state’s biggest power companies, including Florida Power & Light (FPL) – will be in your community to get your take on whether FPL deserves to increase the base rate on your bills by 24%. If this rate hike is approved by the PSC, you will be paying an additional $15 per month – which includes a higher profit for FPL shareholders. It is one of the largest rate increase requests ever –  a $1.3 billion rate hike.

FPL states in its request to the PSC that its shareholders deserve to be rewarded extra for providing superior customer value and wants to increase its shareholder profit from 10.5% to 11.5%. Since this is a “midpoint” profit target, shareholders could end up earning up to 12.5% profit (11.5% plus or minus 1%). By the way, FPL had a net income (profit) last year of $1.65 billion. While the Company has a right to make money, it also has an obligation to be a good partner with its customers.

Check out the dates below for the scheduled public hearing in your community.

What you need to know about FPL

FPL is a regulated utility whose business model is predicated on growth in sales. The more power you buy from FPL, the more it can justify building power plants and transmission lines – the assets upon which shareholders earn a profit. While the company boasts about its low rates, that is primarily due to its over-reliance on natural gas (about 70%) to generate electricity – which is at historic price lows. This heavy over-reliance exposes customers to significant risk of fuel price spikes on bills when natural gas prices increase. FPL is outright hostile to policies that maintain and expand rooftop solar development for customers. It is additionally pursuing speculative nuclear reactor construction where all the financial risk is borne by customers, while it under-invests in low cost, low risk resources like energy efficiency – that actually saves customers money on bills.

Attacking rooftop solar for customers

FPL has spent over $4.1 million of its profits bankrolling the Consumers for Smart Solar “sham solar” ballot initiative — intended to derail the citizen-led solar ballot initiative, Floridians for Solar Choice, which aims to provide more choice to customers for solar-generated electricity. FPL and its allies were able to get the faux solar amendment on the ballot for the November 2016 general election after spending $8 million to gather enough signatures. The proposed amendment would enshrine current weak solar policy into the Constitution and contains nefarious language about solar customers being “subsidized” by non-solar customers. If it passes, the power companies will likely use this language to attack the state’s solar net metering policy. Supreme Court Justice Pariente referred to the initiative as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and encourages solar voters “to beware” in a strongly worded dissent offered by a sharply divided Court that voted 4-3 to allow the proposal to appear on the ballot.

FPL is also leading the charge to roll back net metering in Florida. Net metering is the foundation of good rooftop solar policy and allows customers who generate more power than they use to send excess power back to the grid at a fair rate. In comments submitted to the PSC the monopoly utility argues against customer-owned solar and claims without any factual basis that solar customers are being subsidized by non-solar customers.

Forcing additional costs onto customers

FPL has been slow to respond to contaminated water that is leaking from its Turkey Point Cooling Canal System used for nuclear units 3 & 4 that are located south of Miami near Homestead, Florida. This contaminated water is polluting the Biscayne Aquifer, a sole source aquifer that provides drinking water to more than 3 million people in the region, and into the neighboring Biscayne National Park. FPL concedes that the cleanup will cost $50 million this year alone – and the company wants its customers to pay the  cleanup costs. This cost for customers would be in addition to the proposed rate increase.

The Company continues to pursue high-cost, high-risk new nuclear development at Turkey Point. Since 2008, FPL customers have been charged over $280 million for proposed reactors that FPL has not committed to build. FPL is seeking another $22 million this year without a commitment to build or a binding cost estimate.  The financial risks of new reactor construction fall squarely on the shoulders of FPL customers – thanks to anti-consumer 2006 “early cost recovery law.” These costs to customers would also be in addition to the proposed rate increase.

In a stunningly arrogant move, FPL recently petitioned the PSC to make it less accountable as it pursues its new nuclear reactor development at Turkey Point. It has asked to be relieved from proving that the new nuclear reactors are economically feasible as it continues to demand customer dollars to pursue reactor licensing. The move is opposed by SACE and other consumer protection organizations.

Besides investing customer dollars in speculative reactors, the Company pushed to have customers bear the risk of FPL buying into a $191 million Oklahoma natural gas fracking operation. The PSC approved the deal, over the objections of consumer groups, on FPL statements that it would be a money saving investment for customers. FPL filed a report with the PSC forecasting a $5.8 million loss for customers in 2015.

[Update: Supreme Court reverses PSC & FPL “overreach“]

Helping customers save money on bills? Nope.

FPL has under-invested in low-cost, low-risk energy resources like energy efficiency programs for customers. For instance, the Company gutted it energy efficiency programs for customers in 2014. Energy efficiency is the cheapest resource in meeting demand and helps customers reduce energy use and save money on bills – especially important for low income and fixed income customers. That didn’t matter to FPL, as it advocated for the gutting of its conservation goals by more than 90% to the PSC – which approved it.

Money and influence

It’s no secret that FPL and Florida’s other power companies wield great influence in Tallahassee.  A non-profit group’s report on the industry found that power companies have an oversized influence at the Capitol. For instance, FPL funneled $18 million in political campaigns in 8 years and has 33 lobbyists walking the halls of the Capitol.

The good news is that the PSC public hearings are not in Tallahassee, but on your home turf. Public Service Commissioners don’t generally get to hear directly from customers about the companies they regulate. The PSC will render a decision later this year. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to have your voice heard!

SAVE THE DATE and make plans to join us:

Ft. Myers  – Thursday, June 2, 2016 at 5 p.m. School Board of Lee County Board Room
Lee County Education Center 2855 Colonial Boulevard Ft. Myers, FL 33966 [FT. MYERS POSTER]

Sarasota – Friday, June 3, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. Sarasota City Commission Chambers Sarasota City Hall 1565 1st Street
Sarasota, FL 34236 [SARASOTA POSTER]

West Palm Beach – Wednesday, June 15, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County
7501 North Jog Road West Palm Beach, FL [WEST PALM POSTER]

Melbourne – Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. Brevard County Governmental Center Commission Room, Building C, 1st Floor 2725 Judge Fran Jamieson Way Melbourne, FL 32940 [MELBOURNE POSTER]

Daytona Beach – Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. Museum of Arts and Sciences
352 S. Nova Road Daytona Beach, FL 32114 [DAYTONA POSTER]

Miami – Monday, June 27, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. Miami-Dade County Auditorium 2901 West Flagler Street Miami, FL 33135-1300 [MIAMI POSTER]

Ft. Lauderdale – Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. County Commission Chambers Broward County Governmental Center 115 S. Andrews Avenue Ft. Lauderdale, Florida 33301 [FT LAUDERDALE POSTER]

Pembroke Pines – Tuesday, June 28, 2016 at 5:00 p.m. South Regional/Broward College Library 7300 Pines Boulevard Pembroke Pines, FL 33024 [PEMBROKE PINES POSTER]

Miami Gardens – Wednesday, June 29, 2016 at 9:30 a.m. Florida Memorial University
Lou Rawls Auditorium 15800 N. W. 42nd Avenue Miami Gardens, FL 33054 [MIAMI GARDENS POSTER]

George Cavros
This blog was written by a former staff member of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
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