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FPL’s hoped-for $2 billion hike in electric bills is too much for Miami families

Miami Herald Op-Ed

By Zelalem Adefris and Natalia Brown

This op-ed originally appeared in the Miami Herald

Florida Power & Light is asking for a $2 billion rate hike to fund infrastructure upgrades. An October 2018 file photo shows former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez with FPL President Eric Silagy. CARL JUSTE
Florida Power & Light is asking for a $2 billion rate hike to fund infrastructure upgrades. An October 2018 file photo shows former Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez with FPL President Eric Silagy. CARL JUSTE [email protected]

At a time when many Miami families are struggling to keep the lights on, Florida Power & Light (FPL) wants to force them to foot the bill for a $2 billion rate hike — the largest rate increase in our state’s history.

FPL says the exorbitant rate increase is “needed” to fund infrastructure upgrades. But if you take a closer look at FPL’s track record, you’ll understand why skepticism about the need for this proposed rate hike is rampant, and why it’s important to question what the company will do with our hard-earned dollars if FPL manages to push this measure through the Florida Public Service Commission.

FPL’s proposed rate hike will increase the utility’s revenue by $6.5 billion. Energy Information Administration data from 2019 suggests that FPL’s revenue per customer is already the seventh highest among the nation’s 20 largest investor-owned utilities, but apparently, that’s not enough for FPL. If this rate hike goes through, the average customer’s electricity bill would increase by $216 per year by 2025.


Many of FPL’s customers are already having a hard time making ends meet. More than 645,000 Florida households were late paying their electricity bills in April. This summer, they are facing difficult decisions about whether to keep the lights and air conditioning on, or to buy needed medications or even food. And keep in mind that extreme heat kills more Americans than any other weather disaster, so it’s not a stretch to imagine that these impossible choices will lead to heat-related deaths and illnesses. That’s especially upsetting when you consider that among the nation’s 52 biggest utilities, FPL has been ranked in 51st place when it comes to energy efficiency programs, which save ratepayers money on energy costs.

FPL’s hoped-for rate hike would hit communities of color especially hard because they have less of a financial cushion. For example, while white households in our city have median liquid assets of $10,750, median liquid assets for Puerto Rican households and families of African American descent have only $11 in liquid assets. Note that these statistics were collected before economic fallout from COVID-19 depleted so many families’ reserves. Given how many Floridians suffered as tourism jobs and other employment options evaporated, is now really the time to ask for a 20 percent hike in power rates?

On top of the economic burden, the proposed rate hike doesn’t prioritize something that would benefit Miami residents enormously: renewable energy. Trading fossil-fueled electricity for solar power would reduce unhealthy air pollution, which disproportionately harms communities of color. It would also help curb the dangerous effects of climate change with which all Floridians are familiar, from rising sea levels to more extreme heat events to more severe tropical storms. What’s more, new solar generation now offers the cheapest electricity in history, according to the International Energy Agency.


Instead of maximizing Florida’s tremendous potential for solar energy, FPL and other Florida utilities have a solid record of trying to keep solar energy from thriving in the Sunshine State. A few years back, FPL spent millions of dollars to fund a deceptive ballot initiative that would have imposed severe limits on rooftop solar. In Tallahassee, FPL and other utilities field 80 to 100 lobbyists to press their case to an audience of 160 legislators. They have secured regulations that force homeowners to buy costly insurance policies for large home solar arrays and prohibit non-utilities to sell solar electricity directly to consumers, and a new law that prohibits cities from intentionally moving to 100 percent clean energy.

FPL’s habit of putting profits before the planet and the people of Florida has to stop. The Florida Public Service Commission is now holding public hearings to decide if FPL’s $2 billion rate increase will be approved or not. Please join Catalyst Miami, the Miami Climate Alliance and your fellow Floridians in urging the PSC to strike down this gratuitous and potentially dangerous record-breaking rate increase. Demand that FPL reinvest profits into renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives that serve all the people of Florida.

At a time when Miami families are struggling to keep the lights and air conditioning on, rebuild our local economy, and put food on the table, they should not also have to foot the bill for more fossil-fueled power and more profits for FPL.

Zelalem Adefris is the vice president of policy & advocacy at Catalyst Miami, a nonprofit organization working to solve issues adversely affecting low-wealth communities. She is on the steering committee of the Miami Climate Alliance. Natalia Brown is climate justice program manager at Catalyst Miami and co-chair of the Miami Climate Alliance Clean Energy Working Group.


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