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Another Fine Mess.

(If it seems the we are writing a great deal about Randy Fine, it is not because we want to. It is because Fine just keeps giving us things to write about.)

No one likes it when a storm or hurricane knocks out the power to your home and or business. The fact of the matter is that when it comes to wires, trees, transformers, etc., vs. Mother Nature and her fury, Mother Nature is going to win every single time. Not just sometimes, but every single time.

There are some “solutions” that seek to “harden” the power grid, but they certainly are not perfect and cannot guarantee uninterrupted power. Such solutions include the prospect of burying lines underground, concrete power poles, etc. Toward the goal of more reliable power, power companies have been working on hardening the power grid. It is a time consuming, labor intensive and costly job.

Randy Fine has a solution.

The bill would require Florida Power and Light, Duke Energy Florida, Gulf Power

and the state’s other two investor-owned utilities to submit 10-year storm protection plans for the Public Service Commission to approve.

It doesn’t affect the state’s 34 municipal-owned utilities, which include Jacksonville, Orlando and Tallahassee. Nor does it affect the state’s smaller cooperative energy groups.

The problem is that the power companies already submit 3 year plans for increasing the reliability of the power grid.

So what does a power company get for submitting a ten year plan vs. a three year plan?

Not much except for more regulation and more paperwork which gets passed onto the consumer.

Those plans, in place since 2007, have greatly improved recovery time by replacing wooden poles with concrete ones, cutting back on the trees and other vegetation that can bring down power lines, and converting overhead lines to underground ones.

“Restoration was half the time for Irma than it was for Wilma 11 years earlier, because storm hardening is already taking place,” said Jon Moyle, who represents the Florida Industrial Users Power Group, one of two consumer groups that has come out against the bill. The other consumer group opposed to the bill is AARP of Florida.

The current rule is working, Moyle said, and here’s the evidence: 40 percent of the three largest public utilities’ distribution lines are underground, according to data requested of the utilities by the PSC.

Furthermore, instead of coming before the Public Service Commission every 3 years, under Fine’s bill, power companies will be able to come before the PSC yearly to ask for a rate increase.

Currently, those capital expenses are reviewed during the more in-depth and thorough base rate case review that occurs every four to six years. That is a huge policy shift that could undermine the regulatory protection that currently protects utility customers, a staff analysis said.

“Utility rates are cost-based, so the utility rates are set to provide a return of and on invested utility capital,” Moyle explained. “The utility rates include extra charges, like interest carrying costs and a profit of more than 10 percent on capital investments.”

Nothing like a plan that will cost the consumer more money.

How much money?

Burying lines cost anywhere from $500,000 to $4 million a mile, FPL officials have said in hearings before the Public Service Commission.

FPL’s pilot program to convert 158 miles of overhead lines will cost $100 million, or $633,000 a mile, and the utility has another 23,000 overhead lines that could potentially be converted, according to staff analysis.

To convert just 4 percent of those lines a year would cost a minimum of $577 million under the pilot program rates, the staff analysis said. That works out to a $115-a-year increase in customer rates. (emphasis ours)

After proposing a bill that would cost people more money, Fine went onto say something epically stupid:

The likelihood of being able to put all lines underground depends on the cost-effectiveness and safety, said Rep. Rene Plasencia, who represents parts of Brevard and Orange counties.

“Because of how low our state is, and flood zones, there are plenty of areas where it is not cost-effective or safe to have utilities underground… so this $30 billion price tag is not realistic in a state like ours,” Plasencia said. “Our energy companies are not going to want to put power lines underground.”

Fine scoffed at the $30 billion price tag.

“It is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard,” he said. “We don’t charge $30 billion over one year.”

Huh?

Does that mean that the cost of a house or a car cannot be the selling price because home owners and car owners don’t pay off mortgages and car loans in a year? It’s the same principle, isn’t it?

Furthermore, where does Fine expect that $30 billion to come from? The money tree that we all have growing in our back yards?

While it’s true rates will go up because of the hardening efforts, Fine said, it is all to make a much better product and help people get back to work.

“I’m OK if they make a little bit more money if my power doesn’t go out and my constituents power doesn’t go out,” he said.

How nice of Fine to say that he is okay with more money coming out of people’s pockets.

It is that easy to be generous with other people’s money.

The problem as we see it is that as we are still continuing to come out of the recession, regular people are getting smacked around by governments wanting more and more money. We need more roads. Pay up. We need to maintain roads. Pay up. We need to raise taxes on your homes to increase services. Pay up. We need …..we need…..we need…..

And all the time, the little guy is seeing his pay increase go right through his pockets to the governments leaving him still needing a new car, or money for college, or to pay for higher grocery bills, or to fix a roof on their home.

The bottom line is that we all want a better, harder power grid. We all want power that doesn’t live up to the derogative name for Florida Power and Light of “Florida Flicker and Flutter.” The question that has to be asked is “what are we willing to pay for that, and what are we getting for our money?”

Fine’s plan, like so many of his ideas, cost more, produce less, and and are designed to look good without producing real results.



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