Floridians Should Applaud Silagy’s Exit from Florida Power & Light – Opinion | Opportunity For All Floridians

Floridians Should Applaud Silagy’s Exit from Florida Power & Light – Opinion

Recently Eric Silagy announced his departure as CEO of Florida Power & Light (FPL), one of the nation’s largest utility companies. While Silagy’s announcement was accompanied by kind words from the chairman of NextEra, FPL’s parent company, there is no doubt that his departure is earlier than intended.

Indeed, a recent Florida Times-Union article revealed that Silagy’s exit agreement includes a multi-year “claw back on compensation” if there is a finding of “any legal wrongdoing” – language that is not typical in a retirement package. 

The reference to potential “legal wrongdoing” barely hints at the negative impact Silagy has had on Florida’s environment, consumer protections and, indeed, our elections.  

Political involvement

One of the earliest indications of Silagy’s leadership style was in 2009 with his aggressive behind-the-scenes campaign to investigate Public Service Commission (PSC) commissioners and distribute negative materials about then-Gov. Charlie Crist and other critics, according to the Miami Herald. 

Eric Silagy, the president and CEO of Florida Power & Light during an interview Thursday, June 9, 2022. Eric Silagy, the president and CEO of Florida Power & Light along with Gera Peoples, the Vice President and Chief Litigation Council for NextEra Energy and David Reuter, the spokesperson for FPL met with reporters from The Florida Times-Union, the Orlando Sentinel, and Floodlight News in a lengthly interview in Jacksonville, FL to discuss the attempt by FPL to purchase the JEA, political funding and the use of outside agencies to facilitate FPL's activities. (Bob Self/Florida Times-Union] Bob Self/Florida Times-Union

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With a more compliant PSC in place, Silagy engineered unprecedented rate hikes and high profits for FPL. In 2021, FPL got the commission to approve Florida’s largest rate increase ever. It is an agreement that will force FPL customers to pay $5 billion in higher costs over the next four years while FPL enjoys a profit margin that far exceeds that of any of the state’s other large electric companies. 

But Silagy’s biggest legacy may be the number of election-related controversies under his watch.

The first occurred in 2018 with a former Gainesville city commissioner’s state Senate run – which, the Gainesville Sun reported, FPL allegedly bankrolled to the tune of $200,000 through a nonprofit. This effort apparently had one mission: to siphon votes from Democratic challenger Kayser Enneking and re-elect FPL’s preferred candidate, state Sen. Keith Perry. And in November 2018, it did just that. 

This was apparently a dress rehearsal for multiple “ghost candidate” scandals in 2020. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the “ghost candidates” were unaffiliated independent candidates with mysterious sources of money (since connected to FPL consultants), who siphoned votes away from candidates FPL did not support.

Silagy was very clear about the candidates he didn’t like: In a 2019 email to two FPL executives, Silagy wrote the following about state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez: “I want you to make his life a living hell . . . seriously.” The state senator went on to lose re-election by a handful of votes

Fighting rooftop solar

We should also not forget about Silagy’s attacks on rooftop solar.

The first came in 2016, with “Consumers for Smart Solar,” the amendment crafted to fool voters into thinking it would foster the expansion of solar energy in Florida. This amendment, called a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” by former Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente, actually would have made it easier for FPL to kill pro-solar policies such as net metering. Voters saw through the ruse and rejected it

And just last year, reporting by the Guardian newspaper revealed that FPL lobbyists wrote a bill introduced in the Florida Senate that would have gutted Florida’s net metering rule. This bill would have hindered rooftop solar in the state, a longtime goal of Silagy’s. While that bill sailed through the Florida Legislature, Gov. Ron DeSantis ultimately vetoed it after receiving an outpouring of letters and calls from voters

Indeed, if there is any lesson to be learned from Silagy’s time at the helm of Florida’s largest electric company, it is that “we the people” must hold accountable all of the institutions – from the Florida Legislature to the Public Service Commission to the Governor’s Office – which should have been a check on FPL’s power.

Alissa Jean Shafer
Alissa Jean Schafer is a research and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute, an environmental watchdog organization.

This opinion piece originally appeared in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune

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