After having a conversation about
Florida Power & Light with Commissioner Deede Weithorn, Banana
Republican is convinced it's time for an Occupy Turkey Point rally.
It's bad enough the Florida Public Service Commission approved a rate
increase for FP&L so the utility giant can cover $20 million in
nuclear costs next year. Now Weithorn is shining a light on the
company's ugly practice of consorting with local governments to
clandestinely tax Florida residents for the use of public
She is the lone Miami Beach city commissioner who thinks it is a bad idea to allow FP&L exclusive rights to provide electricity in the island Carl Fisher built for the next 30 years. Today, the commission will vote on a new franchise agreement with FP&L worth $8.6 million a year to the city.
"I am looking for something good for Miami Beach residents in the franchise agreement with FP&L," she says. "But I am having trouble finding it."
Weithorn says she tried for the past year to get FP&L to drop its demand for 30 years, but the company won't budge. FP&L routinely enters into long-term franchise agreements with municipalities so the company can install new power lines and electrical equipment in order to provide power to its customers. In exchange, cities and counties usually get a lucrative franchise fee from FP&L, which the company pays by passing on the fee to consumers. Currently it is six percent of your average monthly bill. These deals essentially help the utility company maintain its monopoly for decades.
"Often, residents don't know they are the ones footing the bill for this," Weithorn says. "Most government officials don't speak up because of all the money going into city coffers. But it is a tax."
Weithorn says granting FP&L the exclusive right to provide electricity for more than a quarter century is not fair. "30 years is too long," she says.
Although, FP&L will argue customers will be paying less next year. When it was announced the company would be allowed to increase rates for nuclear costs, an FP&L spokeswoman noted fuel charge reductions would ensure customers will pay a - are you ready, for this - a whopping two dollars less for every 1,000 kilowatt hours used every month. That is all well and good, but there is no incentive for customers who use alternative methods for electrical power.
"I have a wind turbine and solar panels to generate my own power in my house," Weithorn says. "One day I may be able to get off FP&L's power grid completely. I could even generate enough electricity to share it with my neighbors. But under the franchise agreement, I am not allowed to do that."