Is Florida Considering Killing the Free Market?

February 17, 2022 Topic: Energy Region: United States Blog Brand: Politics Tags: FloridaRon DeSantisSolar EnergyMonopoliesFree Market

Is Florida Considering Killing the Free Market?

Rooftop solar is the ultimate energy choice for freedom-loving Floridians, and the state’s only free market energy option.

Florida has historically been a free market leader in the United States. Business taxes are low, there’s no state income tax, and the regulatory burden is light. In fact, Florida is regularly listed as a top-five state to do business in. Even during the pandemic, the state’s economy continued to grow at a healthy clip.

Unfortunately, this is all being threatened by the power and influence of this state’s monopoly utilities. These utilities, Florida Power & Light (FPL), Duke Energy, and Tampa Electric Company (TECO), each has distinct service areas with a captive customer base and are therefore not subject to free-market competition.

Last fall the Public Service Commission (PSC) approved record rate increases for these three utilities that are already jacking up folks’ electric bills—some Floridians cited a $100 a month increase for January. And these rates are slated to increase even more over the next few years.

For Floridians upset by these price increases, the only real recourse is to install solar panels on your roof and start making your own energy. More than 90,000 Florida homeowners have already become more energy independent with rooftop solar.

Now, FPL is moving to foreclose even that option by killing rooftop solar in the state.

The utility has drafted legislation that is now moving through the state legislature thanks to Senator Jen Bradley (Dist. 5) and Representative Lawrence McClure (Dist. 58). At the behest of FPL, those two introduced a set of bills (SB1024 & HB741) that will essentially prevent individual households’ or businesses' from generating their own power.

These identical bills would allow FPL, and the state’s other utilities, to stop paying fair market value for the excess energy customers with rooftop solar produce and send back to the grid. As if that was not bad enough, the legislation also allows utilities to add punitive and arbitrary fees for people with solar panels.

In short, this amounts to a massive and punitive tax on folks who choose to generate their own, independent power. The clear goal of FPL is to discourage rooftop solar and keep everyone under its thumb, forcing them to pay whatever it and the other monopoly utilities charge for electricity.

The punitive fees allowed under SB1024 and HB741 are not limited to families and individual households either. The fees also apply to schools, churches, and businesses with rooftop solar panels.

Donations to religious institutions are at an all-time low. Inexpensive solar power has emerged as a lifeline for congregations to quite literally keep the lights on. Churches operating on ultra-thin margins cannot afford huge and unanticipated rate hikes. 

This legislation also poses a massive threat to Florida’s dynamic small-business community. Hundreds of small businesses in Florida have installed solar as a prudent, long-term investment to save on their energy bills and take advantage of being in the Sunshine State. Now, the rules of the game could change, undermining their investment and sticking them with huge bills they have not budgeted for. 

Senator Bradley, Representative McClure—and anyone else who supports this legislation—cannot be genuine, pro-capitalism conservatives while carrying water for a monopoly utility that is committed to squashing any and all free-market competition.

Not only do these bills prevent Floridians from being more energy independent, they will be a major job killer. Not only do they stand to eliminate a big chunk of the 10,000 jobs created by the Florida solar industry, but also reduce the job opportunities associated with solar’s broader economic impact and growth.

Rooftop solar is the ultimate energy choice for freedom-loving Floridians, and the state’s only free-market energy option. It not only frees folks from record-high electricity bills, it helps everyone by diversifying the grid—making it more resilient to storms and other possible disruptions. 

Simply put, SB1024 and HB741 would stomp out liberty and strangle Florida’s free-market golden goose, just to facilitate a huge power grab by FPL. Surely these bills are not something Governor Ron DeSantis and a majority of the Republicans in Tallahassee will go along with. Will they?

The governor thus far has a well-earned reputation as a champion of the free market. Support for this market-rigging legislation would upend that, as it requires totally abandoning one's core conservative values on the altar of FPL.

FPL wants to crush our liberty. Tallahassee needs to just say no.