April 4, 2014
According to a new report released by Integrity Florida, and funded by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Florida's electric utilities exert power over state politics at a level surpassed only by their monopoly control over electricity itself.
"Power Play: Political Influence of Florida's top energy corporations" finds that Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy, TECO, and Gulf Power have used hundreds of lobbyists and millions of dollars to influence state political and regulatory bodies to protect monopoly utility interests and suppress growing public demand for rooftop solar, consumer choice and market competition.
TIME Magazine Senior National Correspondent Mike Grunwald immediately grasped one consequence of Florida utilities' enormous political influence:
@MikeGrunwald This is why there's no #solar in the Sunshine State. hrld.us/1e3TiO8
"The people of Florida will one day enjoy the fruits of a major rooftop solar industry in their state: thousands of jobs and an affordable alternative to monopoly utility power," said Chair of The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) and SolarCity Vice President of Policy and Markets John Stanton. "This report illustrates the ways in which Florida's utilities are working today to prevent that bright future from happening, and to continue to force the public to buy dirty power at high prices."
Summary of Research Findings "Power Play: Political Influence of Florida's top energy corporations:
- Major campaign donations. Electric utilities contributed more than $18 million to state-level candidates and party organizations between the 2004 and 2012 election cycles.
- Significant lobbying. Lobbying spending by Florida's four largest electric utilities was more than $12 million between 2007 and 2013.
- Revolving door and cronyism. Electric utilities have made a point of hiring former state regulators and have employed the firms of several sitting state legislators.
- Higher electric bills for consumers. Floridians have faced higher electric utility bills from each of the four corporations examined in this study in recent years.
- Anti-consumer regulations. The Florida Legislature and the Florida Public Service Commission routinely side with electric utilities rather than consumers.
The report comes as Duke Energy is embroiled in scandal in North Carolina, where earlier this year its defective coal ash ponds spilled more than 30,000 tons of ash into the state's Dan River. The utility faces a federal grand jury investigation for its relationship with regulators, triggered by its history of skirting appropriate and significant penalties for environmental violations.
About The Alliance for Solar Choice
The Alliance for Solar Choice (TASC) advocates for maintaining successful distributed solar energy policies, such as retail net metering, throughout the United States. Net metering provides fair credit to residents, businesses, churches, schools, and other public agencies when their solar systems export excess energy to the grid. The organization was formed on the belief that anyone should have the option to switch from utility power to distributed solar power, and realize the financial benefits therein. TASC Member companies include SolarCity, Solar Universe, Sungevity, Sunrun, and Verengo.
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