Hurricane Irma hit Florida September 10, 2017. As of the writing of this article, September 21 – 11 days after Irma struck – more than 100,000 people are still without power. If you’re a State Senator, however, you can be sure that you are not one of those 100,000 people (read our article here).
If you’re not one of the politicians that work hand in hand with Florida Power & Light to give it the protected status it needs to NOT place customers as a top priority, well, you just might be one of those 100,000 or so folks still sitting in the dark at night and the 90 plus degree heat of the day.
Those very politicians that can benefit from having a direct connection to the top leadership of Florida Power & Light are the same people that you can thank for slowing down the recovery time from Hurricane Irma.
Do you know it’s illegal to power your home with solar panels if you are not connected to the central power grid? So, you might be saying, if the power gets cut off from Florida Power & Light you can just use your solar panels to power your home, right? Nope. People with solar panels are not allowed to use them because, in so doing, they might endanger the workers who are restoring power to their neighborhoods.
There is no legitimate reason whatsoever to force people to connect their solar panels to the central grid. That regulation was pushed through with great and costly lobbying efforts by Florida Power & Light, the same company that rushed to restore the power of a Florida State Senator when she texted the Vice President (again, read our story here). The ONLY reason those regulations were passed was to protect FPL from the competition of individual self-reliance and self-sustainability.
Efforts to get Florida Power & Light to build underground power lines were met with costly litigation, delaying the breaking of ground on beginning the process of building power lines underground by years. In July of this year, the city of Miami voted to pay FPL $27 million to not build new power lines and leave existing underground power lines in place at least for the next 40 years. That’s right, the city had to pay off FPL to just MAINTAIN existing underground power lines (read that story here).
How much of Florida’s power lines could be underground today if FPL wasn’t busy blocking any efforts to attempt to get it to start converting to underground power lines? How many smaller companies competing for customers would have found an incentive to make such moves in a state that has seen a regular diet of hurricanes, even tropical storms that regularly take down power lines and put people in the dark?
Let’s take a look at another reality in Florida, monopoly. Is Florida Power & Light the only game in town because they offered the best services for the best price? Hardly. FPL is an artificially-created power monopoly, one created by special regulations and rules that politicians created, the same politicians who receive millions of dollars in campaign donations from this same company, FPL.
The fact that Florida has only one power company means that innovation, experimentation is all-but dead in the sunshine state when it comes to “public” power. It also means that one company, and one company alone, must be the central planner for restoring power to millions of people (at one point, nearly three quarters of Floridians were without power) rather than having a few different companies serving smaller communities, companies that would have had a better understanding of the unique needs and circumstances of those local areas.
What’s more, if FPL follows the patterns of the past, customers can except price increases after the Hurricane, as well as additional “storm fees” to help “pay” for the extra cost of restoring Florida’s power. FPL can take these measures because it is a protected monopoly, one that spends far more money investing in lobbying the government than in storm preparedness.
FPL writes mega checks to powerful politicians, the people who can write the rules and regulations that give it protected monopoly status and assure that people don’t get the crazy idea in their head that they can somehow go off grid and not rely on FPL at all.
FPL promises its customers that they will have their power restored by Friday, September 22, but they make no promise to assure their customers that they will not continue to use their profits to pay off politicians to assure that, at the end of the day, the safety and security of power for individuals in Florida takes a back seat to protecting your powerful, very rich ally, Florida Power & Light.
Without government, who will force you to remain dependent on a central power source that is not reliable and has no great market incentive to change that reality?
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Contributed by Paul Gordon of iState TV.