Rural electric cooperatives have played, and continue to play, a special role in the provision of electric service to the people of Florida. Empowered by federal and state law, residents, local farmers, and businesses joined together to create their own not-for-profit electric utilities and brought electricity to areas that other commercial utilities would not serve. Today these electric cooperatives remain not-for-profit utilities, owned and governed by the consumer-members they serve, and still provide electric service to their consumer-members at the lowest cost possible.
In fact, Florida’s electric cooperatives currently serve approximately 2.4 million Floridians in 57 counties throughout the state. And though electric cooperatives serve only 10% of Florida’s population, their service territories cover more than 60% of Florida’s land mass.
The proposal before this Court would fundamentally alter the way cooperatives obtain electricity for, and provide electric service to, their consumer-members. It also would dismantle the governmental framework under which electric cooperatives and other retail electric utilities have been regulated for decades. FECA therefore presents this brief in opposition to the placement of the Initiative on the ballot.
The Initiative’s title and ballot summary sing a siren song to voters with feel-good phrases like “allowing energy choice” and “right to choose.” But ultimately, the Initiative tries to do too much, affecting far too many disparate subjects, altering and performing the functions of multiple branches of government, and misleading the voters as to the true meaning and ramifications it will have on them, on our state, and on provisions of Florida’s Constitution.
The ballot summary is particularly misleading to voters who rely on cooperatives for their electric power, as it states that electric cooperatives “may opt into competitive markets.” (Emphasis added). Given the highly integrated nature of Florida’s electric grid, however, there is no realistic way the cooperatives can opt out. Regardless of whether a cooperative elects to opt into competitive markets, the Initiative prohibits IOUs from owning electric generating facilities, and it prohibits the State from “granting of monopolies or exclusive franchises for the generation and sale of electricity.” These two provisions alone will substantially impair many cooperatives’ power supplies and invalidate their territorial boundary agreements with IOUs. And the voter is none the wiser.
Read their full legal brief filed with the Florida Supreme Court here.