Jekyll and Hyde utility seeks solar retribution

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What do you do, when your hero is also the bad guy?

Continued excellent investigative journalism by the Miami Herald has uncovered that Florida Power & Light (FPL) – the largest electric utility in the nation’s third largest state – has sought to keep certain solar programs away from certain customers because these customers supported a change laws related regarding solar ownership in the State of Florida. FPL has since removed the language (below image from originally filed document (pdf) at the Florida Public Service Commission) from the proposed terms of service for its SolarTogether program:

FPL attorney Maria Moncada, when asked how the company would track these individuals, was quoted by the Herald as saying:

We will not be data mining, we will not be conducting any Spanish Inquisitions of any kind, but if there is credible evidence that someone is speaking on both sides of this … then we consider that to be unfair to the other customers.

Florida’s electricity market is of a closed nature, where the state allows the utility to own the electricity generation resources, the infrastructure, and control all billing with customers. This model also allows them to charge all customers, via a process called rate basing, for any upgrades and get a guaranteed return on investment. The state has also showed judicial support for rate basing utility scale solar power.

Those of us who have properly studied mathematics and political science, and observed complex systems, might be able to tease out the effects of a monopoly power that exists within a broader 50 state marketplace. The ecosystems of nature include individuals that are powerful physically and dominate broad swaths (whales and NextEra), but also smaller creatures (ants and local solar developers) equally powerful in their own ways, and this reality we celebrate as healthy.

However, sometimes those with power can go too far, as we see when even more great reporting by the Miami Herald showed the deceptive utility strategy behind the counter attack on the aforementioned solar amendment:

“As you guys look at policy in your state, or constitutional ballot initiatives in your state, remember this: Solar polls very well. To the degree that we can use a little bit of political jiu-jitsu and take what they’re kind of pinning us on and use it to our benefit either in policy, in legislation or in constitutional referendums — if that’s the direction you want to take — use the language of promoting solar, and kind of, kind of put in these protections for consumers that choose not to install rooftop.”

FPL might become the leading utility for solar deployment in the United States, but might do it by stomping on its customers and suppressing individual ownership. And dammit, NextEra is the second largest solar power owner on the planet – with plans of deploying massive amount more.

And in the United States, one can argue that we have a competitive market among the states in how open and closed their markets are – much like the countries of the planet. And that this level of competition is also a necessary dimension in our melting pot of political ideas. Sounds like Stockholm Syndrome on a planet that is marching toward global climate catastrophe while politicians are sleeping with the enemy.

So down with the King, long live the King!