Buzz: Electricity Battle

Gulf Power/Florida Power & Light has lobbied the Pensacola City Council heavily to discourage them from doing a feasibility study on the city taking over the electric utility inside the city limits. Sources have shared the utility company has said it would declare impasse in the franchise negotiations, which they claim would put the franchise fees collected into escrow. We’ve also been told the Gulf Power Foundation will cut off all its gifts to local charities.

Gulf Power has not sent out any press releases or contacted local media about any concerns.

Today’s meeting will be interesting to watch.


1 thought on “Buzz: Electricity Battle

  1. I heard from someone at UWF (its main campus is not in the city) that the Gulf Power Foundation will no longer be giving out any money to any charities starting on January 1 because Gulf Power will cease to exist. Yes/No? I presume that Gulf Power has been charging higher rates to ratepayers and then giving some of that money to select certain non-profits as part of its strategic philanthropy effort to buy political influence. The City of Pensacola already gives out more than enough money to local charities, as does Escambia County that gives out a lot. The new Escambia County Trust is going to be giving out even more. To be clear, the so-called franchise fees are paid by city businesses and residents who use electric power. The current Gulf Power collects the money and passes it to the City. I think that the collection of franchise fees and public utility taxes (only collected in the city not out in the county) is optional. If so, att any time it wants, I think that the city council can vote to end the collection of the electric franchise fee (for starters). One advantage of having a home rule electric power company in the city is that it could hire city residents to do the work. We do need more and better jobs for “city” residents. To date, I cannot think of a single time when any of the crews who came out to do work at my house were city residents. They all seemed like nice people but were not city residents.
    Not all that long ago, the crew working for Gulf Power that came to my house was from Oklahoma and only spoke Spanish. That was a big challenge. The City of Pensacola is expert at negotiating from a position of weakness. The city’s franchise agreement with NextEra/Florida Power & Light/Gulf Power expired 12 years ago. We should be in no big rush to get an even worse deal like the one reportedly offered that Mayor Robinson denies exists. I presume that the agreement now operates by default on a month-to-month basis and that state law or regulation would prevent the electric power company from pulling the plug and turning off all of the power in the city as I heard was recently threatened. If the problem with the feasibility study is money, and $20,000 seems pretty cheap to me, then you could take it from the city’s $1.3 million in American Rescue Plan dollars that Mayor Robinson said just this past Monday that he wants to waste on the Roger Scott Tennis Center to increase profits for the Gulf Coast Tennis Group, LLC with whom he seems to be pretty tight. If the city is just that broke that it can’t afford it, maybe private citizens would donate to pay for the study. Count me in for $1,000. In addition to doing a feasibility study, the council should invite the Florida Municipal Electric Association to conduct a series of town hall meetings in each council district to discuss the opportunities “and” challenges of changing from a for-profit to non-profit electric power model. Nothing worth doing every comes without a few upfront challenges. If the feasibility study shows that the city can provide more reliable power at a lower cost and with underground utility lines and put more city residents to work then that’s probably a very smart way to go. The city already has its own natural gas company. If that can work, why not electric power too. A good approach also is to defer any final decision until early 2023. Mayor Robinson is a lame duck who is limping worse every time he opens his mouth in public. A great public discussion about this issue could be part of the future 2022 mayoral campaign. It will be interesting to hear the views of the three downtown candidates, the two non-city residents and any new candidates who might enter the race. No news here yet on Inweekly about this past weekend’s mayoral poll so I guess it did not go so well for Mr. Studer’s candidate D.C. Reeves. Jewell Cannada-Wynne remains the candidate to beat and the only one of five who knows anything about the city. Maybe Inweekly could ask her for a comment on this issue.

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