By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Floridians, a portion of your utility bills are likely paying for a small army of utility company lobbyists to lean on state lawmakers for favorable energy policies — including higher bills.
That’s the implication of the political spending frenzy outlined in a new report by the nonpartisan government watchdog Integrity Florida.
The group’s findings are enough to make the average rate-paying customer blow a fuse.
According to the report, state officials have been catering to Florida’s four largest electric utility companies for years.
Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy (formerly Progress Energy), TECO Energy and Gulf Power have together spent more than $12 million lobbying the state since 2007 — spanning the governorships of both Charile Crist and Rick Scott.
Utility company campaign contributions tallied more than $18 million from 2004 to 2012. In that period, customer rates consistently increased and public officials routinely sided with agendas of the electricity firms.
“These four corporations registered, on average, one lobbyist for every two state legislators each legislative session between 2007 and 2013,” reads a statement accompanying the report.
“For the last five election cycles, these electric utilities were among the largest donors to state-level campaigns in Florida.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration rates the average retail price of electricity in Florida at 11.78 cents per kilowatt hour as of January 2014. That’s above the 11.10-cent average for corresponding South Atlantic states, but well below the District of Columbia’s 12.59 cents per kilowatt hour. Florida’s residential customers pay the most of any other grouping.
Florida’s utility sector is a regulated monopoly that critics often say offers little in the way of competition.