FPL responds to Times editorial on solar net metering | Column
The utility company supports a bill that would fundamentally alter how residents with solar panels on their homes get paid.
An FPL solar array in Sarasota.
An FPL solar array in Sarasota. [ ROB MATTSON | Tampa Tribune ]
Published Jan. 24, 2022

Editor’s note: Last week, the Times Editorial Board published an editorial about a bill filed in the state Legislature that would gut future residential solar installations in Florida. FPL, the state’s largest utility, wrote the response below. The Times stands by everything in its editorial.

In a recent editorial, the Tampa Bay Times attempted to explain the nuanced topic of net metering, misrepresenting the real winners of overdue and much-needed reform.

Contrary to what the paper asserts, utilities wouldn’t be the victors if lawmakers are successful in modernizing net metering. Rather, our customers would come out on top. Here’s why: Updating the more than decade-old net metering rules would prevent a rapidly growing, multi-million-dollar annual subsidy from continuing to hit our customers in their monthly bills.

Related: Proposed law would gut Florida residential solar installations

As the Times lays out, through net metering, customers with solar on their roof sell excess electricity to their utility. Under current state rules, utilities like Florida Power & Light Company, TECO and Duke Energy must buy that electricity at the retail rate, despite it being a wholesale product. Today, this upcharge doesn’t cost utilities — as the paper suggests — it costs our customers through higher electric bills.

Today, 99.5% of FPL customers don’t have solar on their roofs, but they are forced to pay extra each month on their electric bill to support the 0.5% of customers who do.

And that subsidy continues to grow.

A $30 million annual subsidy today, it’s expected to nearly triple to more than $80 million by 2025, according to our analysis filed with the Florida Public Service Commission for the commission’s 2020 net metering workshop. And that’s just for FPL customers.

Disappointingly, the paper seems to suggest that because FPL supports the legislation, it must be bad. This is a disservice to readers, especially given we are not even the primary electric service provider in the greater Tampa Bay area.

Because readers may not know us as well as other utilities, let me introduce you to our nearly 100-year-old company, which proudly serves 5.6 million customers across Florida from Miami to Pensacola.

We’ve built and operate more solar power plants than any other utility in the nation, and we have even more on the way as we work to install 30 million solar panels by 2030. We’ve also been the state’s most reliable utility for 15 straight years, with bills that are consistently well below the national average. We’re investing in batteries and green hydrogen as we continue building a more resilient and sustainable energy future for our state.

That’s why we know this growing subsidy needs to be addressed today. Our customers and the entire state of Florida can’t afford to wait while this unfair subsidy continues to balloon.

If the subsidy remains in place until 10% of Florida homes install solar, as proposed by the rooftop solar industry, the annual subsidy increases 20 times, or $600 million, with FPL customers paying the bill, based on our analysis. Maybe that’s OK with the Editorial Board of the Tampa Bay Times, but I am certain it’s not acceptable to customers served by FPL.

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To be clear, FPL supports net metering and any customer who chooses to purchase private solar systems for their roof. What we oppose is the growing and unnecessary state-mandated subsidy, that is funded by Floridians who can’t or choose not to make the expensive purchase in the first place.

The simple fact is that no company in America has built and operates more solar than FPL and we’re nowhere near done. We just believe that it’s both smart and in the best interest of our customers and the state to be the most green for the least green.

Dave Reuter is the chief communications officer for Florida Power & Light Company