• Pick your power provider? The plan to deregulate Florida's electric grid

    By: Christopher Heath

    Updated:

    Where you live determines where you get your electricity from in Florida. Now there is a push to let customers choose where they buy their power instead of giving power companies specific sections of the state.

    Currently, the state is a regulated monopoly, with the largest electric companies carving up Florida: Duke services Central Florida, FP&L has the east coast, Tampa Electric has the west, and Gulf Power has the panhandle.

    Citizens for Energy Choices, an Alachua County-based group, is pushing a constitutional amendment to deregulate investor-owned utilities. The group has collected more than 76,000 signatures in its push to get the proposed amendment on the 2020 ballot. On Monday, the state’s Financial Impact Estimating Conference took up a review of the amendment to try and determine its cost if approved by voters.
     


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    According to the proposed amendment, customers of investor-owned utilities would have “the right to choose their electricity provider and to generate and sell electricity.” The amendment would also require “the Legislature to adopt laws providing for competitive wholesale and retail markets for electricity generation and supply, and consumer protections, by June 1, 2025.”

    The amendment, if approved, would only impact investor-owned utilities, not municipal and cooperative utilities; like OUC.

    Under the proposed amendment, utilities would continue to own power lines and power poles, but electric plants would enter the open market, with residents able to buy the electricity from any third-party supplier.

    “When you start decoupling or separating the generation from distribution from the transmission form the retail sale, where along that line will the purchase have occurred,” asked Amber Hughes of the Florida League of Cities at Monday’s hearing voicing a concern about application of the public service tax, a tax collected by municipalities on electricity and other utilities.

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    On Monday, cities and counties voiced concerns over where that tax would be collected, saying the ambiguity in the amendment could leave municipalities short.

    Meanwhile, representatives for the utilities voiced their own concerns.

    “The amendment would radically and permanently dismantle Florida's electric industry,” said John Reed of Concentric Energy Advisors. “It will, in our opinion, significantly increase costs to state, county and local governments in the state of Florida and reduce revenues.”

    Proponents of the amendment point to the 18 other states that have already deregulated electricity, most notably Texas where the price per kilowatt hour is .88 cents cheaper.

    The amendment has a long road ahead. It needs 766,200 signatures just to make the 2020 ballot, and then would need 60% of Florida voters to approve.
     


     

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