By Ariel Santiago
After imposing a record rate increase for electricity, Florida Power & Light is now moving to deny average Floridians the ability to reduce or escape these higher costs by producing their own energy from rooftop solar systems.
The legislation, which is rapidly moving through the Florida Legislature, would make it much less economical for residents to generate their own power from solar.
If passed, Senate Bill 1024 and House Bill 741 would allow Florida utilities to stop paying fair market value for the excess energy that customers with rooftop solar systems send back to the grid. The legislation would also let utilities like FPL charge these customers a variety of punitive fees, including grid access fees and monthly minimum bills.
These identical bills, which were drafted by FPL and hand delivered to Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley of Fleming Island and Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure of Plant City, undermine basic free-market principles and erode the liberty of every Floridian.
Already protected from free market competition as a monopoly with a captive customer base, FPL is moving to stomp out the last vestige of free-market energy in Florida — home and business owners who utilize rooftop solar.
In addition, FPL’s legislation would impede the freedom of middle-income Florida residents who want to install solar systems to become more energy independent. This is completely in opposition to conservative and libertarian values.
Sen. Bradley and Rep. McClure pretend to be free-market, freedom-loving conservatives, but clearly, they are not. For these two, being in the good graces of FPL — and its political donation coffers — apparently trumps everything else, including the best interests of their constituents.
According to numerous media reports, shortly after Sen. Bradley introduced SB 1024, FPL’s parent company, NextEra Energy, donated $10,000 to her political committee.
Lawmakers supporting the legislation are quick to parrot FPL’s talking point that customers without rooftop solar are subsidizing those who do, but nothing could be further from the truth. Solar customers are already connected to the grid and the cost of that connection is the same regardless of which way the power flows.
The only thing different is that instead of generating that power, FPL is purchasing it from its customers. While that may slightly reduce FPL’s profit margin on a small amount of electricity, it does not adversely affect non-solar customers. In fact, studies show that more solar energy on the grid actually lowers electricity costs and increases grid reliability.
If FPL wants to discuss subsidies, the legislature should take a hard look at the subsidies and protection from free market competition it receives. In its record rate increase last fall, FPL included approximately $20 million for annual dues to the industry trade associations that lobby on its behalf. That means customers are directly footing the bill for FPL to lobby against their best interests.
Florida lawmakers have let this monopoly utility rig the system long enough. It is time Floridians demand better from those they send to Tallahassee, to demand that they just say no to FPL and stand up for liberty and the free market.
Voting down SB 1024 and HB 741 would be a good start.
Ms. Santiago is the Florida Representative for Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, a national nonprofit organization with nearly 10,000 members in the Sunshine State.