Thursday, August 14, 2014

Floridians demand fair rates from Duke Energy

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 8:42 PM

click to enlarge St. Pete Councilman Karl Nurse spoke at Thursday's press conference.
  • St. Pete Councilman Karl Nurse spoke at Thursday's press conference.

Recently activists in the Tampa Bay area have held events calling out lawmakers who oppose climate change. Today at a press conference in front of Duke Energy’s headquarters in St. Petersburg, City Councilman Karl Nurse and Representative Dwight Dudley joined activists with Floridians for Fair Rates, the Consumer Action Network, NextGen and Progress Florida did just that, focusing their aim at Governor Rick Scott and the Public Service Commission.

The recurring sentiment held by those in attendance was that Rick Scott has accepted massive campaign contributions from Duke Energy, but hasn't given anything in return to Florida residents. Though Duke has invested in alternative forms of energy in North Carolina, Ohio and Georgia, they've done no such thing in the Sunshine State. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, there are twenty-six states with better energy efficiency and conservation programs than Florida. Environmentalists say that stings, as Florida has a plethora of resources to become a national model for energy efficient practices.  For example, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, Florida is ranked third for solar energy generation potential in the entire nation.

Frank Luppo, a retired teacher and a Florida resident for 28 years, believes that the energy companies rates are "grossly unfair."

“The Public Service Commission appointed by Rick Scott decided it was just fine for the rate payers to be on the hook for 3.2 billion dollars, that's billion with a b," he said on Thursday, adding, "That’s the money taken from us, the money taken from the bills we pay for two failed power plants. One in Crystal River and one in Levy County. One was abandoned, and the other one they cancelled. And of course you would think okay, they collected our money, they’ve done nothing with our money. We want our money back. And Rick Scott says, 'oh no, Duke Energy can keep your money and you get nothing for it.'”

The average monthly cost of people’s power is going up every year. St. Pete City Councilman Karl Nurse said people need to be more mindful consumers, neighbors and voters.

“We need to get the message out there that we are all suffering every single day because of the failed policies of this administration," he said. "It’s especially important that every time you get that power bill, every single month, everyone of us in the state of Florida are paying for policies of this administration that have failed. We are paying for not just the power plants that are never going to come on, we’re paying for all of the resources that pay for this big building behind us, that do not support the consumers of the state of Florida.”

Pinellas County Democratic Representative Dudley said there's a new nonprofit called Renew Florida 2016 that plans to create constitutional amendments to repeal so-called cost recovery fees. The group also have an amendment to deregulate sellers of renewable power. 

“Like if Publix has solar power on the roofs of the shopping centers, they cannot sell power to their tenants," he said. "It is a lockout to try to reduce the amount of renewable alternatives energy in the state of Florida. So that’s a horrible thing.”

Dudley believes that to put people back to work in Florida, the utility tax must be repealed. He says that the cost of the decommissioning of Crystal River Three power plant is only a fraction of $3.2 billion, and that it will only increase the burden on rate payers and customers of Duke, individuals, business owners and the economy as a whole. He also believes that the legislature is the last place to be able to make changes. 

“We’ll be old people before the legislature sufficiently changes to be able to make the change we need today, that we needed yesterday, to have better energy policy in the state of Florida.”   

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