Florida Power & Light Accuses FCIR of ‘Factual Errors and Misleading Claims’

A Florida Power & Light vice president sent a memo on April 7 to newspaper editors and publishers throughout the state.

Rob Gould, vice president of communications for FPL, said FCIR’s recent story on Florida’s rooftop solar industry was “riddled with factual errors and misleading claims.”

We are publishing FPL’s memo in full below, as well as FCIR’s point-by-point response, which has also been provided to Florida’s newspaper editors and publishers:

FPL’s Memo

FCIR’s Response

1) The summary of the bill filed by state Sen. Jeff Brandes is here. The bill would have amended the state constitution “by removing a restriction that limits such exemptions to property used for residential purposes and restricting such exemptions to installation by an end-use customer of a renewable energy source device that is primarily intended to offset part or all of that customer’s electricity demands.” Brandes’ bill was voted on by the committees on Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities, and Community Affairs. However, the records show, and Brandes confirmed in an interview with FCIR, that the legislation did not receive a public hearing. FCIR’s story stated: “The law would have meant the property tax value of the home or business could not increase as a result of the value of the solar panels. [Brandes’] bill never received a hearing in Senate committees.” These are accurate statements.

2) The net metering rate is set by the Florida Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission set the net metering rate in its rule 25-6.065 Interconnection and Net Metering of Customer-Owned Renewable Generation. Under section 3(c) of the rule, any energy delivered to the utility grid in one month must be credited to the customer’s energy consumption for the next month’s billing cycle. Credits must be used within 12 months, according to 3(f), and if they are not used within 12 months, or if the customer leaves the system, the utility must pay the customer at the COG-1 rate per kilowatt hour. FPL’s COG-1 rate is 2.9 cents, according to company documents. FCIR’s story stated: “The Public Service Commission has set the rate that utilities buy excess rooftop solar at two to three cents per kilowatt hour” (emphasis added). This statement is true.

3) A Deutsche Bank report from March 10, 2015, states: “Unsubsidized rooftop solar electricity costs between $0.08-$0.13/kWh, 30-40% below retail price of electricity in many markets globally.” This puts the average cost of rooftop solar below or competitive with FPL rates.

4) FCIR does not imply that political contributions are part of a utility’s regulated cost. This is a specious argument by FPL, which makes a profit by providing electric service to Florida ratepayers, based on prices and reimbursements set by the Public Service Commission. FPL’s annual profit is more than $1 billion. That profit goes to the shareholders. Those shareholders then make millions in political contributions to Florida candidates, using money derived from those profits. It’s impossible to separate political contributions from profits and customer rates. As an example, the governor, who received $1.1 million from Florida’s utility companies during his re-election bid, appoints the members of the Public Service Commission. Those members, in turn, set the rates FPL and other utility companies may charge.

5) Several sources in the Legislature confirmed to FCIR that they had been lobbied to support proposed legislation, written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, that would end net metering. On this issue: a link to ALEC’s policy on net metering, ALEC’s resolution on net metering, and an article that details ALEC’s work to defeat net metering. FCIR’s story stated: “There’s proposed legislation circulating in Tallahassee now that would stop homeowners from selling extra energy created from solar back to utility companies, perhaps the biggest blow yet to Florida’s fledgling solar industry.” This statement is true; however, FCIR’s language on this could have been clearer since “proposed legislation” may suggest that this has been sponsored by a member of the Legislature. We will add a clarification to the story.

6) The article correctly states Ray Johnson’s position.

7) State Rep. Dwight Dudley is a Democrat. FCIR erroneously said that he was Republican. We regret the error, and we have corrected it.