If you live in Florida, get ready for your electric bills to skyrocket. And if you're thinking maybe you'll go solar, don't count on any help from the government. Recent events serve as a sad reminder that the State Of Denial is still stuck in the grips of corrupt and outdated energy policies and politics.
This past week, the Public Service Commission (PSC) responsible for regulating the energy industry fell victim to the business of politics as usual - or the politics of business as usual, same difference, as in none. Two pro-consumer members of the PSC lost their jobs because they fought hard and successfully against exorbitant rate hike requests by Florida Power & Light (FPL) and Progress Energy last year. In April, two other commissioners were forced out for the same reason.
All you really need to know here is that the PSC is put together by a nominating council dominated by Republican legislators. Its chairman is Senator Mike Bennett (R- Sarasota), who incredibly enough also chairs a committee called "Committee Supporting Utilities and Competitive Commerce". It's almost comical and truly tragic for such clear conflicts of interest to be tolerated.
The four ousted PSC members were in fact appointed by Governor Charlie Crist rather than the legislature, so they were living on borrowed time to begin with. When they went so far as to do their jobs and regulate the energy industry responsibly, they were doomed. Now the industry will work through hired hands in the legislature to remake the PSC and in effect "regulate" itself.
Hmm, wonder how that's going to turn out. If you're a Floridian you may be thinking, hey, this would be a good time to invest in a solar system for the house. Think again.
Coincidentally enough, at the very same time that the Republicans' PSC hostile takeover action was unfolding, their inaction on solar energy initiatives was taking center stage as well.
On June 30th, Florida's solar rebate incentive plan expired because Republicans dominating the legislature refused to renew it for another year. The rebates made it possible for homeowners to recoup up to eighty percent of the cost of installing a full-scale solar electric system. Now they're on their own.
It should be noted that ever since 2006, when the GOP temporarily forgot who it really works for and green-lighted this consumer-friendly program, funding has been so inadequate that rebates were gone in the first few days of eligibility each year.
While some legislatures (in places like California and New Jersey) would see that as a sign of great success and enormous potential, increasing funding each year by ten and twenty-fold, the Republican Party of Florida saw that as a threat. And I think we all know what they feared was being threatened. So now they have removed that threat.
You see, Florida Power & Light has changed its name to NextEra Energy, as in - if the Next Era of Energy in the Sunshine State is all about harnessing the energy of sunshine, then they will damned well be the ones to harness it first, fastest, biggest and best, so that they can sell it to the public at whatever outrageous price the market and their hand-picked Public Service Commission will bare. Individual homeowners getting the help they need to install solar systems and in fact being able to sell their excess energy back to to the utility? Sorry, but that doesn't fit with NextEra's plans for the Next Era.
There are three important paths for all concerned citizens to take moving forward, far as I can tell.
First, Floridians and friends of Floridians should pick up the phone, call state legislators and scream bloody murder over the PSC disaster. Demand that an independent new Judicial Nominating Commission be formed to screen and select future PSC members, taking regulatory powers out of the corrupted hands of legislators once and for all. Make phone calls, write angry emails and Letters To The Editor - or do not complain when most Floridians' electric bills jump 40-percent.
Next, help get Florida out to vote, help get every single eligible person out to vote, help take this shameless, useless pack of Republican hacks and whores that are running roughshod over the state and run them out of office. Democrats have their whoreish ways too, sure, and they won't be magically delicious and solve all our problems. But they will not help Big Energy and other industries steal the public's money with the same voracious abandon that the GOP does, and that is more than enough reason to vote Democratic across the board.
The last thing is, you might want to look into purchasing portable home wind turbines for yourself, and/or for friends and family living in Florida...quickly.