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Emails Show Florida’s Biggest Utility Drafting Anti-Solar Bill

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A worker installs a solar panel on a home in Palmetto Bay, Florida.

A worker installs a solar panel on a home in Palmetto Bay, Florida.
Photo: Joe raedle (fake images)

Public services in Florida, it seems, have been busiest this year writing laws that advance their interests and slow climate action. According to emails obtained by the Miami Herald and FloodlightFlorida Power and Light, the state’s largest utility company, directly wrote a bill that would restrict the rights of rooftop solar panel owners, and it appears to have paid politicians to make sure it was introduced.

Reading emails is quite an exasperating exercise to see a clear path of how money influences politics. Jennifer Bradley, a senator in her first term, met this fall with representatives from the utility industry, including those from FPL.

On October 8, a Bradley staff member sent an email to the FPL lobbyist requesting “follow-up information or language regarding the net metering bill that he discussed with Senator Bradley.” The lobbyist decided to “leave [text] off “with Bradley in person at the capitol the following week. On October 18, the staff member emailed the lobbyist again asking for “an electronic copy of the net metering invoice so he can draft it.” Records show that NextEra Energy, FPL’s parent company and the nation’s largest utility company, delivered $ 10,000 to Bradley’s political committee on October 20, two days after that email; Bradley introduced the bill in November. (NextEra told the Herald that the money was given without “an expectation of favor.” Okay, sure.)

FPL is a household name to solar advocates, and this isn’t the first time they’ve tried rooftop solar kneecap. The concept that FPL wanted to paralyze in this legislation is what is known as “net metering,” a practice that allows rooftop solar panel owners to sell the excess energy they generate with their equipment to the grid. In recent years, many utility companies across the country have been fighting state net metering regulations, trying to reduce the prices they pay for customer-generated solar power or trying to eliminate the practice entirely in the interest of maintaining control of power generation. While only about 1% of the state’s solar customers actually engage in net metering, FPL says the practice, which encourages people to install solar on rooftops, could cost Florida utilities. up to $ 700 million by 2025.

“This is a tired tactic utilities have used to maintain their monopoly control in the electricity markets,” Will Giese, southeastern regional director for the Solar Energy Industries Association, told the Miami Herald. “Net metering is a popular program that gives people the right to choose the energy that works for them, provides benefits to all taxpayers, and creates thousands of energy-related jobs throughout Florida.”

FPL is also no stranger to using money to try to influence politicians on this and other issues. Me tooresearch published earlier this month by the Orlando Sentinel shows that FPL donated $ 3 million and coordinated closely with a dark money effort to ruin certain state elections last year by backing what became known as “ghost candidates, ”Or the candidates participated in races to split the Democratic vote and drive a Republican favorite; That same investigation found that FPL has donated $ 10 million to dark money groups on this very website. Representative Lawrence McClure (who presented a corresponding bill against net measurement in the House a week after the Bradley legislation was introduced in the Senate) has long and deep ties to the utility industry and has received money from various groups and sources connected to NextEra and FPL. McClure did not receive cash directly from either entity this time, he did receive a check for $ 10,000 on November 4, days after submitting his version of the invoice, from a group on the dark money web that FPL has reported. contributed.

Utilities can often fly under the radar as political forcesBut do not overstate the power and influence that many utilities have on energy policy, and the ways in which they will exert that influence to get what they want. Florida folks beware, your utility companies are writing their own rules.

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