FPL: The good guy or the bad guy in town?

fplEveryone has an opinion about Florida Power & Light — “Greatest utility company in the world – lowest rate in the country.” “Polluters!

Just look what they are doing to our bay.” “They’re charged me for plant expansion that may never take place. Will I get my money back?” “FPL says ‘we’re cutting your rate, again.’ Great, I love ’em!”

So the comments continue. What is the truth? We are so busy, so concerned about the presidential primaries, so worried about Europe and ISIS that we often neglect what is happening in our backyard — to our pockets.

Yes, FPL charges one of the lowest rates in the country. Just compare FPL’s rates with those of the other major companies around the nation. Yes, FPL is supplying power for a very low per kilowatt rate. Their add-on fees are normal for the industry so there is no fudging to back into a higher rate to the consumer.

Rates, to quote FPL, are lower than they had charged 10 years ago — and it’s true. But so are those of most other major companies in the country. The price of oil and gas, the fuel most companies burn, is at a low not seen in many years. So it’s logical to lower your rates to the consumer, both homeowners and businesses.

True, FPL is asking for a rate increase. The company has a pending application with the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) to increase the base rate by $4.8 billion between 2017 and 2020 to cover expansion of generating capacity. If approved, which I assume will take place, it will wipe out the short term reduction and put billions more into FPL’s treasury. It also will give them the maximum allowable profit under Florida guidelines.

It is also true that FPL has an obligation to its stockholders to give them the maximum return on their investment. Share market value in 2006 was $43.24. Recent figure: $100-plus. And, dividends between the same years have doubled.

What bugs me is their advertising campaign: “We are lowering your bills” while all the time they are quietly asking for a maximum rate increase — a distraction from their activities in Tallahassee?

How do we know the rate increase will be approved? Two indicators: First, Gov. Rick Scott has loaded the FPSC will friends of the industry.

He has replaced four of the five commission members that had previously denied FPL rate increases. Second: FPL is one of the largest financial contributors to our state legislators’ election and reelection campaign funds. And money buys affirmative votes.

We all know FPL is trying to build two additional plants in South Dade to meet growing demand, in large part for downtown Miami and the beaches of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Many ask why South Dade? The land is below projected water level increases placing the plant under water if not reengineered at an unknown cost. Does it make financial sense?

Add this to the current environmental problems of hot, salty water flowing from cooling canals at the South Dade power plant into Biscayne Bay and we have a hot political problem on hand. Should our Miami-Dade county commission site FPL for the violation? Is it a violation?

Elevated levels of ammonia and phosphorus were detected after FPL was forced to increase water volume in its cooling canal system in order to cool it below the 104-degree maximum temperature allowed for entering the plant. The result: the possible destruction of plant and fish life in Biscayne Bay and ocean waters to the north and south.

Recently the Nuclear Regulatory Commission held an open house to answer questions on what it considered a routine year of operations. Routine? Miami-Dade Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava said people are calling her office: “Should we stop drinking our water?”

Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner and other local elected officials want more than an “open house,” they want an investigation and formal action.

What’s next?

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About the Author

Kenneth Bluh
Kenneth has been writing a column for Community Newspapers since 1989 when he first wrote about the incorporation movement in UMSA (Unincorporated Municipal Services Area). His columns cover the political scene in Miami-Dade and Tallahassee. Educated at the Wharton School in Philadelphia, Kenneth has been a member of the banking/mortgage lending profession in Florida since 1962. Contact him at kbluh@americanbsm.com or 786-247-0547 where he manages American Bancshares Mortgage LLC’s Reverse Mortgage Department.

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