As the city of Sarasota continues to haggle over a new franchise agreement with Florida Power & Light, a group of Sarasota citizens is hoping to come up with an alternative plan.
The group is called Sarasota Power, and it has launched a nationwide design contest to seek ideas on how the city can retain more control over its electric utility.
FPL’s 30-year franchise agreement with the city expired in May, and the two sides are debating the length of a new contract — or whether to sign a contract at all.
The power company has never signed anything less than a 30-year contract, but city commissioners are pushing for a five-year deal. They’ve also discussed having the city create its own utility company, which would leave FPL out of the deal.
Sarasota Power does not want to see the city enter into a deal that lasts until 2040.
“Our overall concern is that the City Commission may sign on a quasi-monopoly without researching all the options,” said Johannes Werner, a Sarasota Power member.
His group’s design contest is meant to uncover some of those options.
“We just want to do research,” Werner said.
Sarasota Power wants input from its contest entrants on how to develop a power system that improves reliability, offers financial savings, reduces greenhouse gases and offers the city more control.
Completely dispensing with FPL would mean an immediate loss of $5 million, because that is what the city collects in franchise fees each year.
But Sarasota Power cites Gainesville as an example of a city that has profited from creating its own electric company. Each year it takes in about $34 million, which makes up about 30% of its total revenue.
Gainesville also expects to get more than one-fifth of its electricity from renewable sources in the near future.
Sarasota Power’s contest runs through Oct. 6. It wants all entries to detail technical aspects of a power plan, as well as who will run it and how it will be funded.
Visitors to the group’s website, www.sarasotapower.org, will get to vote on the top 25 entries. The top entries will be presented to a panel of experts Oct. 7; the panel will then narrow that list to five entries. Those five entries will be presented to the City Commission Oct. 17.
For more details on the Sarasota Power design contest, visit www.sarasotapower.org.