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Battle begins over ‘energy choice amendment’

Supporters believe electricity customers will save from competition; opponents say the opposite.

The state’s revenue forecasters sounded skeptical of a proposed constitutional amendment to promote competition in the electricity market as business group representatives said the proposal will actually cost consumers more.

“The outcome will not be positive,” said French Brown, a Dean Mead attorney representing the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Brown spoke at a Monday workshop of the Financial Impact Estimating Conference in The Capitol.

They are considering an amendment for the 2020 ballot titled, “Right to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities; Allowing Energy Choice.” All amendments need 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

Pushed as a consumer choice initiative, the amendment’s passage would benefit newer, start-up energy companies while chipping away at traditional investor-owned utilities such as Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy Florida.

Infinite Energy co-founder Rich Blaser, who supports the amendment, told the panel Florida needs to “break up state-sponsored monopolies.” His company now only provides natural gas service in Florida, according to its website.

Competition will promote more renewable energy, or ‘green power,’ he said, and ultimately — as in already-deregulated Texas — save the state’s ratepayers billions of dollars.

But chief legislative economist Amy Baker — noting that Texas-style deregulation was in state law, not in that state’s constitution — questioned who’s responsible if competition doesn’t happen.

She mused whether the state itself, to safeguard what would be a constitutional right, would have to go into the electricity business itself, as it did with homeowners’ coverage when Citizens Property Insurance Corp. was created.

“… I’m happy to do more research but that’s just something we haven’t seen” elsewhere, he said.

She also questioned who would manage the power grid. Blaser said a nonprofit concern does so in Texas, but Baker raised a concern that an out-of-state entity could be in control of Florida’s electric supply.

Brown noted that the measure failed to win favor at the 2017-18 Florida Constitution Revision Commission, which convenes once every 20 years to consider changes to the state’s governing document.

“There’s no need to create such uncertainty,” he said, mentioning the potential utility tax hits to the state and localities.

Brewster BevisAssociated Industries of Florida‘s Senior Vice President of State and Federal Affairs, told the panel the amendment was “the wrong answer” for all of Florida’s electric customers, industrial and residential alike.

The regulation of power is actually a good thing, he said, for pricing, safety and reliability.

And Florida economist and financial advisor Hank Fishkind, working on behalf of AIF, said the kind of competition the amendment proposes “doesn’t make sense … we’re not there yet.”

Fishkind, a former University of Florida economics professor, previously weighed in on last year’s successful initiative to ban live dog racing, saying then that “claims that Amendment 13 would cause economic harm are incorrect and not supportable.”

The conference will eventually determine the energy choice amendment’s impact on state revenues. Meantime, the proposal still needs a total of 766,200 to get on the ballot; at last tally, it had nearly 82,000 valid signatures.

Written By

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Marilynne Martin

    February 11, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Back in 2012 a friend asked me to look into smart meters, it led me on a journey of no return.

    I e-mailed JR Kelly, the Office of Public Council (the legislative appointed person to represent consumers in rate cases) after the former General Counsel made his good-bye speech to the FPSC where he predicted Florida would de-regulate just like the telephone companies. It was in Dec 2014. JR said it was unlikely as most who deregulated saw significant price increases.

    My research found, they (globalist) are building a Global Grid. They want power generation to be a commodity outside the usual price regulation control by the States. Once this happens, we lose all control. Name one commodity not price manipulated by the elite? They globalized the banking industry – how did that work out for us?

    They will tell you the current regulatory model (cost of service model) is broken. That is a lie. Our regulators are broken. That is what we need to fix.

    They tell you this will bring “choice’. This is also a lie. You will get a choice of “suppliers”, that’s all. That supplier will use all the current distribution plant (wires, poles, etc.) and typically your current electric company will continue to distribute – you are not free from them. But they are predicting a monthly rate of between $30-50 a month just to be connected – base charges.I have the NARUC presentations from years back to prove it.

    Expect a fight from me. But they know most people do not understand these constitutional amendments, and they will have the money to promote it.

    Read Grid 2030 and its followup report Technology Roadmap which is available on the federal Dept of Energy website and understand the true master central plan for energy.

  2. Mike Brasovan

    February 12, 2019 at 8:22 pm

    Having been in the business of buying power for the past 25+ years I can say, without a doubt, that electricity deregulation has lowered prices, or kept them low, in Texas. Having worked in several locals, and having followed the evolution of dereg markets across the US, I can also tell you without a doubt that if Florida deregulates then you should follow the Texas energy market model. In 2001 we were able to buy power for customers for $0.031/kwh. Now we are paying $0.033/kwh. That is not a lot of inflation folks. And it is a lot lower cost than we were paying for power when regulated. As evidence of the inefficiency of the Cost Plus regulated model I offer up these two facts: most of the generation in Texas that is operating today (that is economic to operate) was not owned by a former utility company. Those plants couldn’t cut it in the open market. They were too inefficient. Second, the utility business is the only business in the world where you are basically guaranteed to increase you profits if you remodel your offices, or spend more on a transformer or build a more expensive power plant…. The more they “invest” the more they are allowed to make. Do you think the regulatory system that is set up to review these costs is more effective than the open market at disciplining cost decisions? I don’t think so. Deregulation, done right can be a great advantage to any state economy. The key is requiring the utilities into at least two companies – energy sellers and the poles and wires – and then to open the market to other generating companies/energy sellers. It works.

    • Marilynne Martin

      February 12, 2019 at 9:22 pm

      Are these $.033 kwh quotes full in or do you get charged extra from the distributor?

      I googled texas electricity rates ; Here’s what came up

      “How do Texas Electricity Rates work?
      Electricity rates in Texas are not fixed. Your rate can vary greatly depending on your usage and your electric plan. Some plans have relatively flat rates, while others can be all over the place. This means that you could end up paying 7¢ for 999 kWhs and 8.5¢ for 1001 kWhs. That would be a 16% increase because you microwaved a few potatoes. Learn more on the different plan types here. ”

      Be careful people. FP&L’s current kwh rate for residential is $.091 plus a flat $7.94 customer monthly base charge (before taxes and storm charges). Our base monthly charge does not include all distribution system charges, some go into the non-fuel kwh rate. What is Texas monthly base charge from the distributor?

      Make sure you compare apples to apples.

  3. Marilynne

    February 12, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    The average Texan pays approximately $0.1098 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), and uses about 1,171 kWh per month.
    https://paylesspower.com/blog/average-electric-bill-in-texas/

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