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Senate turns out the lights on electric rate hike

by John Kennedy | April 26th, 2011

Legislation that would have given Florida Power & Light and other investor-owned utilities authority to raise customer rates to finance alternate energy projects appears dead for this session.

The Senate Budget Committee, on its final day of hearings, rewrote portions of the measure (CS/SB 2078), before delaying a vote.  But when the committee adjourned without a final vote, budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said that was the last lawmakers should expect to see of the proposal.

“We are disappointed, but we remain committed to working with the governor and Legislature to address Florida’s future energy needs,” said FPL spokeswoman Jackie Anderson.

Florida utilities, heavy contributors to both political parties, would have been allowed to tack on an additional charge – without prior approval by state regulators – to cover their costs of building solar and biomass energy plants or buying renewable energy from producers.

For FPL’s 4 million customers, mostly in South Florida, the Juno Beach-based utility’s $206.1 million share could mean an extra $2.40-a-month on average, or $28.80 annually, to encourage the use of alternate sources to oil-, gas-, coal-, or nuclear power.

Supporters said the move, sponsored by first-year Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, chair of the Senate’s Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee,  would create jobs in the burgeoning renewable industry. Critics said the extra charge is a giveaway, especially to FPL which last year was denied most of a $1.25 billion rate hike by the Florida Public Service Commission.

While utilities are potent political forces, Benacquisto’s bill ran into tea party opposition. Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group founded by Palm Beach oil billionaire David Koch and a force in conservative politics, ran a full-page newspaper advertisement in the Tallahassee Democrat critical of the legislation.

Gov. Rick Scott also said he was wary of giving utilities the go-ahead to raise rates without regulatory oversight.

Removing the possibility of the rate increase would shield consumers from one of several measures certain to take money out of Floridians’ pockets. Scott and legislative leaders insist they are crafting a no-new-taxes budget, although higher out-of-pocket costs look certain for many Floridians.

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12 Responses to “Senate turns out the lights on electric rate hike”

  1. SR Says:

    This bill should have been DOA. If “green” energy is really such a good idea and allegedly would have saved customers money then a rate hike to pay for it is unnecessary. Shouldn’t these great new energy sources pay for themselves?
    Unfortunately Senator Benacquisto has a record of favoring rate hikes for utilities dating back to her days on the Wellington Village Council. Fortunately, Americans for Prosperity and her fellow senators put a stop to this rate hike.

  2. Yale Says:

    Well, I am very disappointed. Say what you will, but Florida is missing the boat on renewable energy. We have so many resources in this state that can be tapped for energy and every single year the Legislature does nothing to move us forward on green energy. Its a GD embarassment. Im not a fan of FPL, but kudos to them for doing the right thing in this case. Its sad that the legislatures cant get their act together and pass this.

    Maybe all the tea party fools will be happy every time they ship a billion more dollars a month over to Hugo Chaves and the Saudis every time they piss all over solar energy.

  3. SR Says:

    We ship billions to Chavez and the Saudis because the President and Dems won’t allow us to exploit our own domestic resources.
    We’re putting 37% of our corn crop into ethanol and we’re paying more for food and fuel. When the renewables become efficient and economical the people will use them without government interference or coercion.

  4. BSC Says:

    Well put YALE… Not funding renewable energy in FL is absurd

  5. Carol Says:

    Bet the Gov would OK raising rates to up profit, and his kickback – but a responsible forward-paying rate hike (in ways more important than money) he says no way!
    Ha – how transparent….

  6. Proud 58 Says:

    Hey SR: sunlight and wind are domestic resources!

  7. SR Says:

    Are you going to drive your car on solar or wind power, Proud? Neither is particularly efficient or reliable, even in Florida.
    And you might have noticed that environmentalists manage to find reasons to block the building of wind turbines (they kill birds & bats, too noisy, etc.) and solar panel farms (they’re a blight on the landscape) too.

  8. mike Says:

    Rates are always raised to build new electric generation when needed. The problem is that the law requires FPL to build the most cost effective generation. solar is more expensive than other types, so this legislation authorizing the more expensive option was required to allow FPL to build more solar. If we want solar, it is going to cost a little more. That is the choice. I, personally, would pay a little more for solar, just to avoid the greenhouse gas and dependence of middle east and Hugo Chavez issues, but most Floridians don’t seem to want to pay the 2 dollars a month it would cost and the politicians are afraid to fight that sentiment.

  9. Conservative Diva Says:

    The Florida legislature…doing what WE THE PEOPLE voted them in to do! Thank you AFP & The Tea Party for holding their feet to the fire and all of us AMERICANS that made calls to STOP FPL from having us pay for something that does NOT work! DRILL HERE DRILL NOW…..OUT THE EPA!!!

  10. Conservative Diva Says:

    Don’t forget that 0bama said it himself……

  11. Mark Says:

    Shame on the Legislature for failing once again to move renewable energy in Florida and shame on the Palm Beach Post for writing negatively about it.

    YOu idiots want to be more reliant on oil and coal and have higher electric prices when natural gas spikes up again, then go ahead. I’ll vote for renewables. Florida is around 2% renewables. Texas is leading the country in renewables. Yes. Texas, that left leaning wild eyed state of environmental radicals.

    Some of you people are just plain dumb

  12. Not Thankful Says:

    Another example of the idiots in Tallahassee. They will raise insurance to the point no one can afford to insure their home but ignore the future of Florida. Perhaps they will enjoy living next to a coal plant like TECO operates. Black soot over everything. Dead vegetation all around. Hey but coal is cheap. Wonder how come TECO customers pay more for their electricity.

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