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FPL CEO: Florida Electric Choice Initiative Would Reduce Funding For Police, Firefighters

FPL CEO: Will Work To Educate Voters On "True Motives" Of Initiative Backers

January 28, 2019

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Copyright 2010-19
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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During an earnings call for parent NextEra Energy, Florida Power & Light Company President and Chief Executive Officer Eric Silagy discussed a proposed ballot initiative to introduce retail electric choice in Florida, stating that the initiative would reduce funding available to first responders, decrease reliability, and raise rates

"The ballot initiative, it’s being framed as about helping Florida customers, but it’s not about that at all. When you look at it, it’s really about furthering the business interests of a few folks, including a retail electric provider that’s located and based out of Gainesville, that markets power currently outside of Florida," Silagy said

"This is a group, they've tried unsuccessfully to get this proposal in front of voters through the Constitutional Revision Commission and also through, unsuccessfully they tried, through legislation in Tallahassee. Their efforts have been unsuccessful in the past because, frankly, Florida's regulated electricity market works really well," Silagy said

"When you look at the state, the power prices are among the lowest in the nation, with electricity that’s among the cleanest and most reliable in the country. As an example, Florida Power & Light offers our customers bills that are more than 30% lower than the national average. Lower than bills in 45 states," Silagy said

"[W]e were just recognized [for the] third time in four years as the most reliable electric provider in the country, which as you can appreciate in a state like this is important when our customers need us most, particularly during times of storms and hurricanes," Silagy said

The electric choice initiative, "will lead to increases in electric rates across the state, reduced reliability, particularly during periods of storms, hurricanes, things of that nature," Silagy said

"And I think it’s going to compromise the clean energy goals that have been announced, including the one we just did on FPL’s 30-by-30 initiative, as the unregulated power producers would, they’d have no restrictions on the type of generation that they would build," Silagy said

"Also, I think it’s important to understand on these type of things that consumer protections are removed. You no longer have the Florida Public Service Commission role in determining what rates are. They would no longer be viewed as being just and reasonable if that’s the standard, it would go out the window, and that’s going to impact reliability as well," Silagy said

"Even you look at now attorney generals in a number of other states have called for the end of deregulation due to all the consumer complaints and the deceptive trade practices," Silagy said

"[T]his language would actually prohibit customers from being able to buy power from the existing utility. So Florida Power & Light customers would not be able to continue to be customers of Florida Power & Light," Silagy said

"There's some other areas too that I think there will be a lot of focus on, including the fact that franchise fees, which we collect and pay to municipalities across the state, would be eliminated. And that is [a] significant amount of revenue that would no longer be available to pay for things like first responders, firefighters, police, hospital employees of these municipalities that everybody counts on," Silagy said

"So, there's a lot of reasons why these proposals have failed across the country since, frankly the early 2000s. You look at including even recently in Nevada where it failed. When you look at other states that looked at this, a lot of them backed away, particularly after the California crisis, and when Enron moved into California to take advantage of their so-called market-based model, which was ultimately the catalyst for that crisis, and helped contribute to the state having some of the highest power prices in the country," Silagy said

"So, I don’t think it’s by accident that there hasn’t been a state that’s passed deregulation since the California power crisis which occurred now nearly twenty years ago. So, there's a number of hurdles that have to be cleared for this proposal to go forward to be placed on the ballot," Silagy said

"We're going to be very actively engaged. We're going to be educating Floridians on the true motives of the special interest groups, and we're going to also spend a lot of time educating folks on the significant negative impacts that this failed idea would have on the state and on their pocket books," Silagy said

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