Letters to the Editor

Florida power companies should embrace clean energy

A Feb. 10 Other Views column, Growing economy depends on clean energy, by former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman promoting nuclear reactors as a clean-energy solution for Florida, missed the mark.

She paints an outdated vision for the Sunshine State’s energy future. Fact is, building new costly reactors locks customers into paying for monopoly utility decisions that benefit power company shareholders more than they help ratepayers.

There are more affordable and sustainable energy resources to help Floridians save money on bills, assure an energy future and create jobs.

New reactors in Florida are essentially financed by customers — thanks to a 2006 law passed by Florida’s Legislature that shifts the financial risk of building reactors from company shareholders the customers. Reactors are ultra-expensive and can take decades to build. Duke Energy Florida customers recently got hit with a $3-billion bill despite the fact their power company pulled the plug on the reactor projects.

How expensive are new reactors? In the case of FPL, customers will not see a net financial benefit on the money they pay to finance its proposed reactors until 25 years to 36 years from today, if ever. If you’re a 50-year-old FPL customer, you could be 86 or older before that resource decision by FPL pays off for you in fuel savings.

We can do better.

Florida’s power companies ought to be capturing low-risk, low-cost clean energy resources first — like helping customers reduce energy use and lower their bills. Energy efficiency is the cheapest, fastest and cleanest way to reduce carbon emissions and your energy bills.

Unfortunately, the Florida Public Service Commission recently approved FPL’s request to gut its energy-efficiency goals. That means less help from your utility in making your home or business more energy efficient. Those goals must be revisited.

Moreover, the state has barriers that limit ownership options of another clean-energy resource: customer-sited solar power. Laws currently prohibit the sale of power — including solar power — to a customer by anyone other than a monopoly utility. The price of solar power is approaching retail grid parity in Florida.

The state should promote more choice in solar ownership options so that every Florida family and business can enjoy the economic benefits of solar power.

The future is now. Ms. Whitman and Florida’s power companies need to embrace it, not fight it.

George Cavros, Florida energy policy attorney, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Fort Lauderdale