A bridge to nowhere



GRU General Manager Ed Bielarski, along with the Gainesville City Commission’s hand-picked Utility Advisory Board (UAB), has hastily recommended rushing into a 30-year obligation to pay Florida Power & Light (FP&L) to route new electric transmission lines through our community. 

FP&L has purchased Gulf Power in the panhandle and will be connecting their new territory into its low-cost electric system.

The problems with this rushed deal with an extremely large, well-managed, and sophisticated investor-owned electric utility (IOU) are as follows:

  1. There is no appurtenant Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).
  2. This is a major commitment that could and should be competitively bid (instead of merely accepting Bielarski’s unsubstantiated claims).
  3. We do not know the route(s) that will or can be taken.
  4. According to our City Charter, which is routinely ignored, city voters must approve of “disposal” of electric utility generation assets by way of a stand-alone special election held before said disposal occurs.
  5. Rushed deals with Bielarski’s “friends” and/or “partners” never work out for the GRU ratepayer.

Bielarski’s claims of “savings” never lead to savings for the GRU ratepayers.

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Now Bielarski is claiming that tens of millions of “savings” will amortize many more hundreds of millions of dollars in debt that is freshly incurred. 

 Bielarski referred to GRU electric generating plants over the age of 38, without specifying the actual age of each plant and, more importantly, the fuel burned. Whether a plant is peaking or not also matters.

Upon mothballing of any or many GRU plants, these plants go from being classified as an asset to a liability. It is expensive to keep an electric plant idle but available—especially old, obsolete plants.

What Bielarski envisions is decommissioning everything in his “arsenal” of dirty, uneconomic electric generation plants except the biomass plant. This would render the GRU “net position” way negative. There would be huge immediate bond downgrades, easily eliminating any “savings.”

The outright sale of the entire GRU electric utility through a competitive RFP process would be preferable and could:

  1. Eliminate most, if not all, GRU debt. 
  2. Slash our electric bills (including local government) by 33% to 67%.
  3. Eliminate the electric surcharge outside the city.
  4. Impose PSC rate regulation.
  5. Eliminate massive local air pollution and truck traffic to/from the biomass plant.
  6. Stop decimation of local forests.
  7. Produce huge ad valorem tax increases for all local taxing units.
  8. Bring in franchise fees for owners of the public right-of-ways.