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Florida Energy Choice Initiative promises lower bills and green energy

OPINION

BY DARIN COOK / NOVEMBER 11, 2019

The power to choose has always been the bedrock of the American dream and has brought with it unimagined innovation, unparalleled price reductions, unrelenting gains in efficiency, and unbelievably happy customers. However, the electric industry has maintained state-sanctioned monopolies. Choice is denied to the consumer paying for electricity in Florida, and Floridians are paying utilities dearly for it every day.   

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Right now, we have a chance to change the status quo. Right now, if we get 766,200 verified signatures, Electricity Choice will be put on the 2020 ballot for Floridians to vote yea or nay. Right now, we have well over 500,000 verified signatures and need a few hundred thousand more to make this happen. We need your help. Go to www.flenergychoice.com to download a petition and follow instructions on where to send it.

Florida lags far behind Texas, a fully electricity-choice state, in green power. Consumers want green, and in Texas, electricity choice demands it, so much so that 24% of the capacity of Texas power is green. Florida is less than five percent. And Texans can buy a 100% green-energy electricity product for less than the least expensive power in Florida. I think this must be written again: Right now, Texans can buy a 100% green-energy electricity product for less than the least expensive price in Florida! Through electricity choice, Texans have transformed their state to the most green state in the nation and at negligible cost to the consumer, especially compared to Florida.  

If electricity choice happens, we can expect that, over time, Floridians will save 20-30% off their bills and transform into a green-power state, just like Texas has done in the last 20 years.

Now, this constitutional amendment does not require municipally-owned utilities to allow energy choice—instead it allows them to opt in—so how does this initiative help the consumer in Gainesville, where electricity rates are consistently near the highest or the highest in the State of Florida?  

Gainesville Regional Utility electric customers could be set free of the monopoly if the Gainesville City Commission chooses to opt in to electricity choice. As an aside, many of the utilities in Florida refer to their customers as ratepayers, but to GRU’s credit, they call them customers.

Why would the Gainesville City Commission choose to opt in? Well, during the process of transferring to a completely electricity-choice market, utilities in Texas were able to claim stranded costs, and Florida would most likely follow that model. Stranded costs are given to utilities to shut down or subsidize uneconomical power plants that still have borrowing costs tied to them. These stranded costs had been passed through to all consumers of electricity, and the great majority of them were paid off in the first ten years of an open electricity market. GRU could claim the biomass plant as a stranded cost, and instead of only 90,000 customers carrying the burden of this huge mistake, all the consumers of the State of Florida would share in alleviating this cost to electricity consumers of GRU. GRU could then fund the General Fund Transfer either through franchise fees or through raising their distribution costs (poles and wires). They would be out of the production business, and consumers would be allowed to choose what power they wanted to buy instead of the Gainesville City Commission choosing what the customers must buy.

If the Gainesville City Commission chooses not to opt in, electricity consumers could still benefit in another significant way. Florida is way overbuilt in power, and if the wholesale market is completely competitive, as this amendment will ensure, then wholesale power prices will become much less expensive than they are now. GRU would have the option of buying wholesale power at lower prices than it could if it produced its own electricity, especially when it comes to producing coal-derived energy, biomass-derived energy, and even natural gas-derived energy. Most of GRU’s power plants are old and/or inefficient, compared to what’s been built in the last 10 years in Florida.  

Finally, GRU would have the option to sell its green power at retail prices, instead of wholesale prices, to any consumer in the State of Florida, thereby offsetting the huge albatross of the cost of the biomass plant around the consumer’s neck into a much more manageable cost. Options are valuable, and the Energy Choice amendment gives GRU options to save their customers money that they don’t have right now.  

So please help us do the right thing by making Florida green through the power of electricity choice. Help us bring down power prices in the local area. Sign the petition and then vote yes for electricity choice in Florida.

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