The Argus Foundation Board of Directors in a unanimous vote encourages the city of Sarasota to renew its franchise agreement with Florida Power & Light Co. for another 30 years.
As a non-exclusive franchise that allows other firms to produce and distribute electricity, the 30-year franchise is not restrictive to new technology. The 30-year agreement has been adopted by Sarasota County and 170 other jurisdictions that FPL serves to facilitate the bonding capacity necessary to raise capital for the infrastructure support needed to run a power generating and distribution utility.
Currently FPL has the state’s lowest utility rates and is recognized nationally as one of this country’s most reliable public utilities. A leader in renewable energy, the company has actively participated in net metering to those customers with solar systems who feed surplus electricity into the FPL grid.
In Sarasota County there are 150 participants in that program. Some have complained that the price paid for that surplus electricity is less than retail and that FPL should pay more. The price paid to the customer under net metering is established by the Public Service Commission.
Since the 1920s, FPL has been an outstanding partner and steward of the public trust to the citizens of Sarasota. Through the franchise agreement, it has delivered to the city of Sarasota a stable and growing source of revenue, second only to the ad valorem tax base, for the annual operations of the city.
For the city to displace FPL as our community energy provider would require the condemnation of the current distribution system through eminent domain. Reliable estimates, based upon the Winter Park experience, have estimated that to buy out the FPL property would cost taxpayers anywhere from $100 million to $120 million. That would purchase the lines and poles. The next step would be to purchase power.
Until those two steps are completed, we will neither have the assurance nor the guarantee that the city of Sarasota can deliver either the same reliable service or the state’s most reasonable price for electricity currently being delivered to the citizens of Sarasota by FPL.
In short, The Argus Foundation Board of Directors, business people all, feel that the risk to the community is too great, filled with too many unknown consequences for us to move away from a partnership that has been fundamental to our quality of life for the past 60 years.
We encourage the Sarasota City Commission to renew the franchise agreement with FPL for an additional 30 years and join together with Sarasota County to explore with FPL the energy advantages that will continue to benefit all the citizens of Sarasota.
The Argus Foundation is a not-for-profit business advocacy organization whose members consist of business owners and senior managers.
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- I am surprised the head of an organization that claims to represent local business interests favors an out-of-town monopolist — because this is, de facto, what FPL has been over the past 30 years and longer. A municipal utility seems to be, for now, the only way to ensure First World-style reliability, adaptation to rapid technological change, and an opening of the system for competition. Trevor Underwood, a Fort Lauderdale activist, has worked out a road map to municipalization (for full text, go to www.sarasotapower.org). A tree hugger? Think twice. Underwood is an economist. As a consultant for the IMF and the Bank of England, his mantra is competition, and he professes to not like things run by government. As of now, the public debate has barely scratched the surface. I urge city commissioners to seriously and systematically consider all options, including municipalization, before making a decision that will affect our grandchildren.
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