As a former city commissioner in a community that has a publicly-run utility company, I can say that the proposed constitutional amendment to deregulate Florida’s energy marketplace should deeply worry Floridians.
We have seen these bait and switch attempts in years past when groups form to confuse voters to support an effort that does quite the opposite of what it seems to do.
In fact, Attorney General Ashley Moody has reviewed the proposed language created by Citizens for Energy Choice and declared unequivocally that their efforts are contrary to giving consumers choice. In her opinion, Moody said the amendment’s “undisclosed chief purpose” is actually the “opposite of being pro-consumer choice.”
The Florida League of Cities, representing 412 cities across Florida, is even more concerned about the substantial financial impact this will have on consumers and cities throughout the state. The Florida League of Cities “strongly opposes this special interest snow job. Aside from the highly questionable benefits it will bring to consumers, it may have devastating fiscal impacts on Florida’s cities.”
The data also shows clearly why deregulation is a bad deal for Floridians. In every year since 1997, the average residential customer in regulated states has paid a lower rate for electricity than their counterparts in deregulated states. In Texas, as of 2014, areas exempt from deregulation, on average, paid lower residential electric rates compared to deregulated areas of the state.
We also know that deregulation comes with greater consequences for minority communities and seniors. Studies have confirmed that when states deregulate their energy marketplace, the first ones targeted are those most vulnerable, and the least who can afford to pay higher costs. In New York, residential and some small commercial customers overpaid by $817 million between January 2014 and June 2016, and low-income customers overpaid by almost $96 million during the same period, compared to the prices charged by regulated public utility companies.
In Florida, we cannot be fooled into believing the false narrative being advocated by Citizens for Energy Choice. They have been exposed by the attorney general for being anti-consumer, and we know that in our state, consumers are paying lower rates than those in deregulated markets.
In fact, as of September 2018, residential customers in deregulated electricity states pay 38% more for power than Florida residential customers.
As the campaign season for 2020 gets into gear, let’s stay focused on facts and what’s best for Florida families.
Gil Ziffer is a former Tallahassee city commissioner, where he served for nearly a decade. A past president of the Florida League of Cities as well as a past member of the board of directors of the National League of Cities, Ziffer is on now on the board of FARE, a progressive coalition of voters and organizations who have banded together to set the record straight on the dangers of deregulating Florida’s energy marketplace.
Gill Ziffer op-ed first appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat here.