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A Times Editorial

Shine light on utility's alternative power plan

The public deserves to have the issues with going green spelled out in black and white. Florida Power & Light, the state's largest public utility, wants to keep its ratepayers in the dark. At FP&L's request, the Florida Public Service Commission has sealed an audit of an alternative energy program the utility now plans to overhaul. A little sunshine is in order.

The PSC audit focuses on FP&L's Sunshine Energy Program, which the utility calls the "largest green power program in the Southeast." It has collected $9.75 per month since 2004 from some 38,000 customers who agreed to help the utility's efforts to expand renewable energy options. That program has collected about $10-million, and the PSC audit was aimed at verifying how the money has been spent. But FP&L has forced the PSC to keep the findings and much of the documents sealed. It has to renew its demand to keep them secret by June 19.

The Palm Beach Post reports that FP&L records that are public indicate out-of-state renewable energy companies benefited more from the Sunshine Energy Program than those in Florida. Yet the program was touted by the utility as expanding renewable energy sources within the state, and it fell short of its goals for developing more solar power. FP&L has plans to increase solar power generation within Florida, but the audit would shed more light on the apparent gap between promises and accomplishments — and how responsibly it has spent the money of customers who voluntarily contributed to the effort.

The audit also could provide an education on how the utility bought Transferable Renewable Energy Credits. The Post reported that FP&L hired a Texas company to buy credits, which each equal to 1,000 kilowatt hours of renewable energy. But only roughly half of the credits were bought from Florida companies. Perhaps the audit digs further into how FP&L customers are adding to their electric bills to help finance renewable energy efforts in other states. Now the utility says it wants to stop buying energy credits and build more renewable power in-state.

Florida and the country should encourage the development of more alternative energy sources, and FP&L is a leader in those efforts. But for this to be successful, residents need to have confidence their money is being spent wisely and that the investment delivers as promised. Keeping this PSC audit secret undermines that effort, and it should be made public so ratepayers can make that judgment for themselves.

Shine light on utility's alternative power plan 06/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 9, 2008 6:06pm]
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