Outrageously high power bills in 2022 are explained by years of political interference from FPL, Florida’s largest electricity monopoly.
Summer 2022 in Florida – one of the hottest on record, and with that, people around the state are noticing record-breaking power bills.
“According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average home’s monthly electric bill in Florida is a little more than $125, which is about 13% higher than the national average.”
Not only is Florida Power and Light (FPL) is the largest power company in Florida, it is the largest power company in the United States. And they don’t take kindly to anyone who tries to challenge their monopoly status.
The Miami New Times revealed in a July 2022 article the volcanic reaction FPL CEO Eric Silagy had—in 2019—when a Democratic Miami state senator proposed legislation he didn’t like—legislation that had no chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Senate.
What was the legislation that irked Silagy? In 2017, 2018 and 2019, State Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez filed legislation that would have legalized solar-power purchase agreements between landlords and tenants in Florida. This legislation would have allowed commercial property owners to install solar panels and sell electricity to their tenants without suddenly turning themselves into a regulated utility.
Power purchase agreements are legal in most states. In fact, only four states outlaw power purchase agreements. Power purchase agreements are a win for both property owners, tenants, and the solar industry. The landlord can recuperate their investment, the tenants save money because the fixed rate they pay is lower than the local utility company rates. The only loser with power purchase agreements is the utility monopolies, like FPL.
During the 2019 Florida legislative session, Senator Rodriguez’s bill did not pass. In fact, it wasn’t given a hearing. But the mere fact that he filed the bill was apparently enough to trigger FPL’s CEO Eric Silagy’s explosive anger. The Orlando Sentinel reported that in 2019, after reading the Miami New Times piece about Rodriguez’s proposed legislation, Mr. Silagy sent his employees an email saying, “JJR is at it again, I want you to make his life a living hell… seriously”.
Within minutes, Eric Silagy’s email was forwarded by FPL leadership to a political consulting firm named Matrix, LLC. News reports have now linked consultants and major donations funneled through this firm to three different Florida Senate races, where third-party or independent candidates—some of whom never actually campaigned on their own—were promoted in an effort to siphon voters away from the Democratic candidate.
Remember, the Florida Republican controlled state legislature had successfully killed Senator Rodriguez’s bill in the previous two sessions. Instead of allowing the political process to naturally play out, FPL CEO Eric Silagy decided to corrupt the political process using FPL money. It is now alleged that FPL and the Florida Republican party rigged 3 Florida state senate races. News reports suggest that FPL hired the political consulting firm Matrix LLC to orchestrate the plot.
In Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez’s district, FPL allegedly funneled money to disgraced former State Senator Frank Artiles who allegedly paid an auto salesman, Alex Rodriguez, to put his name on the ballot. FPL also allegedly funneled money through shell nonprofits they controlled to pay for political advertisements for all three fake candidates. This strategy was meant to siphon votes away from Democrats, essentially splitting the vote so the Republican candidate would win. In the 2020 election, Alex Rodriguez, the fake candidate in Senate District 3, won more than 6,000 votes. Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez lost re-election by 32 votes to Republican challenger, Ileana Garcia.
The FPL plot to rig the 2020 election cost upwards of $600,000 according to recently released court documents. FPL is a publicly traded company but because it is a regulated industry with a captive customer base, it’s profits are regulated by Florida’s Public Service Commission—a government body whose 5 commissioners are approved by the Florida Senate. In 2021, just months after the rigged election, FPL requested and was awarded a $1.5 billion rate hike, the largest rate hike in history.
“New Times was unable to obtain comment from Rodríguez about the recently surfaced email, but we were able to reach his former chief legislative aide, Gianna Trocino Bonner.
Senator JJR was not only one of the best bosses to work for, but he was one of the best and most committed senators and advocates,” Bonner tells New Times in a phone call. “Knowing that there was such a coordinated effort to take him down is terrible — not only for democracy, but for progress in the state.”
Bonner points out that Floridians’ utility bills are being increased at a time when the cost of living is rising, while special interests have apparently influenced the process and undermined democracy in ways we’re only now beginning to learn about.Though the Sentinel story characterized the document leak as the result of an “epic feud” between Matrix’s founders, it remains unclear how reporters got their hands on the internal records.”
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