Why the Pitchforks are coming out in Florida

Stephen Smith | October 28, 2014 | Energy Policy

As the Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) for over 20 years, I pride myself and the organization in our capacity to work collaboratively with utilities and decision makers to achieve strong results. SACE has a long history working with utilities in all of our Southeastern states, and we have achieved some positive outcomes examples here, here, and here  and developed some strong relationships over the years.

Of course, collaboration requires that all parties are willing to engage in a serious and mutually respectful relationship. My colleagues at SACE and I take our role as advocates for clean energy very seriously, and when we engage with utilities and decision makers, we show up in a professional and respectful way. We know that this is the best way to achieve positive results, and we expect the same of our counterparts at the region’s utilities.

Today, we are clearly at a low point in our relationships with Florida utilities, and we truly believe we have arrived here as a result of the utilities’ arrogance and refusal to engage in serious discussion. We have been extremely disappointed in the poor manner in which utilities in Florida have chosen to engage with advocates and stakeholders in recent years, as well as the negative light within which they have chosen to cast clean renewable energy and affordable energy efficiency before regulatory bodies and the state legislature. No doubt leadership in Tallahassee from the Governor on down has led to a “Utilities Gone Wild” oversight philosophy by the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC). The utilities have fueled this breakdown in regulatory oversight with cash, lots of cash. It’s not only Duke. Florida Power and Light (FPL) in many ways leads in this arrogant approach to stakeholder relationships and corrupting the political process in Tallahassee.

Our focus in this particular action is Duke because Duke Energy Florida and its predecessor, Progress Energy Florida, have, for a number of years, refused to seriously work together with SACE and other stakeholders to explore constructive ways to collaborate for real solutions for Florida. They have also taken a number of actively misdirected positions before the PSC that we believe are untenable to a constructive relationship, including (but not limited to):

In response to this aggression and the utilities’ refusal to collaborate productively, SACE is hosting a Pitchfork Protest outside of Duke Energy Florida’s St. Petersburg headquarters this Wednesday, October 29. The purpose of this event is to send a very clear signal to Duke Executives, shareholders, and elected officials in Florida that Duke customers and all Floridians deserve better corporate leadership than what Duke is offering.

We are not undertaking this event lightly – we believe that in a free society, customers and citizens have a right to express themselves clearly and strongly, and we believe that this protest is a necessary step to address the complete insensitivity and lack of cooperation that Duke and other utility companies in Florida have been getting away with.

Remember we are only providing the pitchforks, Duke and legacy Progress Energy provided the angry customers.

Join us Wednesday in downtown St. Pete to exercise your rights to protest monopoly power and bad political leadership! Click here for details.

Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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