No matter where you stood on the presidential election, one thing for sure is that Florida voters sent a loud and undeniable message to Florida politicians and the state’s big power companies to stop standing in the way of solar power.
I have not been shy about expressing my many frustrations with Florida Power & Light (FPL) but they really outdid themselves this time.
Along with the state’s other big power companies, they spent millions and millions of dollars to try and fool voters with the deceptive Amendment 1. Thankfully the public saw through their scam to hold back solar and the measure went down in flames.
FPL displayed sheer audacity during the campaign. Insiders knew they were trying to pull a fast one on Floridians but it was publicly confirmed when a Tallahassee think tank was caught on tape bragging at a conference about how the measure – while it sounded like it promoted solar – was designed to do just the opposite.
We were inundated with TV commercial after commercial rivaling even the presidential campaigns for saturation. It makes one wonder why if FPL has so much money to waste on a phony and expensive campaign to make it harder for you to get solar, then why should they be allowed to raise our power bills?
Yet the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) just gave FPL a rate increase of $811 million. Even though the AARP and The Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers at the PSC, argued that rates should go down. Now bills will increase $11.41 for typical customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours a month by 2020. FPL can get an 11.60 percent profit on their investments. This is all after the company’s made $1.6 billion last year. Nice deal if you can get it.
Frankly, it’s bad enough when FPL gets to pick our pockets but it’s quite another thing when they put our health and safety at great risk.
We all know about the leaking cooling canals at Turkey Point and that FPL is still planning to build two new nuclear reactors. Reportedly they hope to inject radioactive waste produced from cleaning the reactors into a deep groundwater area known as the Boulder Zone over the next few decades. If the pollution migrates, this could put at jeopardy the Biscayne Aquifer, our main source of drinking water, with radioactive carcinogens like cesium, strontium-90 and tritium.
Gee, what could go possibly wrong?
FPL is also leading on a pipeline project called Sabal Trail to transport out of state fracked gas to Florida. Construction of the pipeline is being rushed along while critics allege construction violations. They are displacing residents using eminent domain to force homeowners to sell their properties along the pipeline route. They are threatening water supplies by releasing hazardous materials and drilling muds into waterways. In November, drilling muds from the pipeline leaked into South Georgia’s Withlacoochee River, a tributary to the Suwannee River.
Gee, what could possibly go wrong? A lot.
Bottom line: Many forms of energy can have disastrous consequences whether it’s blowing the tops of mountains off to get coal, drilling for oil 18,000 feet below sea level like the Deepwater Horizon or contaminating our water with hydraulic fracturing.
Solar power, on the other hand, does not require water or need fuel. It’s powered by the sun, of which we have plenty in Florida. The costs have plummeted and battery storage is around the corner.
Let’s not commit ourselves to dangerous energy choices. When you built pipelines and power plants, they are around for decades. There is just too much at stake. It’s time to move away from risky and costly energy sources and focus on clean, cheap renewable energy like solar. In fact, Florida voters – through the defeat of Amendment 1 – are demanding it.