Florida Power & Light: A wolf in sheep’s clothing
Last week I paid $220.93 to Florida Power & Light (FPL) for the month ending July 22. It is the highest electric bill I can remember paying in my apartment. The previous month the bill came to $164. Last year, NextEra, FPL’s parent company, made gross profits of more than $12 billion. After discounting bloated salaries for its executives and who knows what other expenses, the company still managed to net more than $3.5 billion. Previous years have not been much different. In fact, in 2018 the company netted almost $7 billion.
So as someone on Social Security and a small retirement, I considered a one month 35 percent increase steep. Although there is no doubt that July in Miami is very hot, I considered calling them and insulting them. But decided, What’s that gonna get me? Anyway, there are few, if any, other options. I really don’t know of any other company that provides a power source for my needs at home. So I, like almost every other person in the state of Florida, is stuck with FPL.
NextEra Energy is traded on Wall Street as NEE. They bill themselves as “America’s largest electric utility that sells more power than any other utility, providing clean, affordable, reliable electricity to more than 5.7 million customer accounts, supporting more than 12 million residents across Florida.”
Profits over the years:
|YEAR||GROSS PROFITS||NET PROFITS|
|2021||$12.542 billion||$3.573 billion|
|2020||$14.458 billion||$2.919 billion|
|2019||$14.841 billion||$3.769 billion|
|2018||$12.995 billion||$6.638 billion|
|2017||$13.102 billion||$5.380 billion|
|2016||$12.146 billion||$2.906 billion|
A Florida monopoly
Let’s call it what it is, FPL, or NextEra, is a Florida monopoly: a great majority of Floridians must get their electricity from FPL. And as you can see in the chart above, they have not lacked for profits, which are in the billions (with a B). The problem is not the profits, though. In fact, I am glad they are profitable. The problem is that they ARE greedy. Those billions don’t seem to be enough.
I blame politicians in Tallahassee, who are supposed to regulate, through the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), the five commissioners who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate and who should be regulating the utility company. But NextEra and FPL executives, and their highly compensated lobbyists, make sure that the governor and Florida legislators, overwhelmingly Republican, receive large contributions for their reelections — almost a sure thing with around a 90 percent winning percentage for already elected politicians.
In this manner, these NextEra- and FPL-favored politicians assure that persons appointed to the PSC remember that NextEra is beholden to its shareholders, and not the Florida residents who pay exorbitant power bills that make both the utility company and its shareholders on Wall Street rich.
So the fact is, we get screwed.
But as I wrote, they are very greedy. Those billions “earned” are just not enough. The truth is that FPL believes that losses incurred by the company should be shouldered by its customers, and the profits belong to them.
Let me put it this way, one’s car, as it gets older, one saves to buy the next one, or repair it. When it finally breaks down, and they always do, you can’t go to the Honda or Chevy dealer and demand a new one, since the one they sold you five or six years ago now has 100,000-plus miles and breaks down every other month. In other words, you must use your own money and purchase a new one.
FPL is different. They are happy making the billions, but when it is time to modernize equipment, or there are mishaps like a hurricane, for example, they go to the PSC and ask for a raise in rates to better serve the public, they claim. Notice, though, that we get stuck with any loss they might incur, while still wallowing in the profits.
Even that is not enough for them, though. Recently we learned of the website, The Capitolist. It claims to be an independent “digital media news team providing original reporting, analysis, and aggregated news.” Through excellent reporting by Miami Herald reporter Sarah Blaskey, we found out the truth and “how a team of elite communications experts consulting for FPL plucked the Capitolist from obscurity and used it as part of an elaborate, off-the-books political strategy to advocate for rate hikes, agitate for legislative favors, slam political opponents and eliminate anything — even home solar panels — that the publicly traded utility worried might undermine its near monopoly on selling power in the Sunshine State.”
By purchasing this website, which aims its content directly at Tallahassee decision makers, FPL president and CEO, Eric Silagy, and his executives, were able to maneuver “behind the scenes at the Capitolist to settle scores and bend the will of regulators, politicians and the public.”
Something must be done
For years I’ve written of FPL and their abuses. Years later we find out that they continue to pile on. Not only do they want to control our decision makers, now they’ve gone out and surreptitiously bought a media “influencer” to convince people who read about these things. What next? I ask myself.
Thankfully, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, from the Tampa Bay area, wrote a letter recently to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate FPL over its use of dark money and the reports that the public utility sought to manipulate elections and coverage in its favor. She wrote: “Generally, electric utilities should operate in the public interest and it appears that FPL and its officers use dark money, pressure campaigns and illicit, and possibly illegal, activity to disadvantage the citizens of Florida.”
Finally, if you live in Florida, don’t be fooled by the wonderful TV commercials positing FPL as worried about the use of fossil fuels and the future of our children. The truth is that it appears that FPL cares little about our environment and climate change. It is pushing policy changes that would prevent rooftop solar power in the state.
As reported by The Guardian, “Florida Power & Light … is lobbying to hollow out net metering, a policy that lets Florida homeowners and businesses offset the costs of installing solar panels by selling power back to the company.”
Adding, “Internal emails obtained from the Florida Senate show that an FPL lobbyist, John Holley, sent the text of the bill to state senator Jennifer Bradley’s staff on 18 October. FPL’s parent company contributed $10,000 to Bradely’s political committee on 20 October. A month later, Bradley filed a bill that was almost identical to the one FPL gave her. Another lawmaker introduced the same measure in the House.”
Honestly, we need electricity to live. But we also need to favor those who pay for that electricity. And FPL, in cahoots with politicians in Tallahassee, is making sure that we carry the burden for those making billions. If not the politicians, then, who do we turn to?