No matter how many times the Orlando Sentinel or Sun Sentinel publish viewpoints criticizing or disparaging Florida Power & Light Company – we get one response every 30 days.
But, because the Sun Sentinel recently published another response from FPL – we’re told our latest submission in response to a joint editorial can’t be printed or posted online.
You see, both papers are owned by the same company and frequently collaborate on stories and opinion pieces.
A technicality? I suppose.
A disservice to readers? Absolutely.
Last summer, the new editorial page editor of the Sun Sentinel proclaimed, “a new era for matters of opinion” at the paper.
The piece continued, “strongly-held opinions — rooted in facts, polished by perspective and strengthened by knowledge should be an intellectual lubricant that nurtures our faith in democracy and the future.”
The Orlando Sentinel has had no issue publishing two Miami Herald editorials in March.
Sorry, only once every 30 days.
Rules are rules, as they say.
Given the direct attack on our company, the papers did offer to carve out space if we whittled our submission to 150 words.
The truth shouldn’t be stifled, so we’ve posted our full response below.
FPL’s full response from Chairman and CEO Eric Silagy:
What happens when two newspaper editorial boards team up to pen an opinion piece about Florida Power & Light Company?
They double down on misinformation.
The Sun Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel clearly don’t see eye-to-eye with us, but their latest joint editorial titled “Florida’s struggling consumers lose again in Tallahassee” is a classic example of their bias and blurred vision.
The papers claim the “miserably partisan” legislative session was “great” for FPL by yielding changes to Florida’s net metering rules in “ways favorable” to our company.
What the papers either overlooked or purposely withheld from readers is the fact that Republicans and Democrats voted for this long overdue reform – in both the Florida House and Senate.
That’s right – lawmakers from both sides of the aisle determined it was time to start phasing out a regressive tax that forces the overwhelming majority of Floridians to pay tens of millions of dollars more each year on their electric bills to fund inflated bill credits for the fortunate few who can afford to stroke a $30,000 check to buy private rooftop solar systems.
In railing against the legislation, the paper argues that FPL “never mentions” our ongoing effort to underground neighborhood power lines, claiming those already served by underground lines are subsidizing work in other neighborhoods.
That’s because it isn’t a subsidy.
Undergrounding powerlines, or strengthening above-ground lines for that matter, improves the resiliency of the entire energy grid – which is a benefit to all customers day-to-day and after a storm.
Simply put, the less damage to our system, the faster we can get the lights back on for everyone and the less that is spent on restoration.
Still, it makes you wonder.
In pointing to another perceived “subsidy” the paper effectively admits current net metering rules create just that – a handout to only a handful at the expense of everyone else.
Do the Sun Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel really think it’s OK for customers without rooftop solar systems to pay extra each month to support those who do?
I’m sure the papers would quickly point to climate change and argue all forms of solar have a role to play.
And, we would agree.
It’s why FPL supports all kind of solar – including rooftop.
But at what cost?
If the papers are so concerned about “real pocketbook issues that affect millions of Floridians,” they should come clean with readers and reveal which form of solar is most cost-effective for customers given all solar is included in their bills.
Who pays for and who benefits from private rooftop solar installations is at the core of this legislation and why it was so badly needed.
Moving forward, those who choose to make this purchase would eventually start to bear 100% of the costs, much like they enjoy 100% of the benefits.
Bottom line, the Florida Legislature didn’t make “life easier for FPL.”
Unlike the Orlando Sentinel and Sun Sentinel, lawmakers refused to be blinded by rooftop solar rhetoric and chose instead to unshackle the 99% of Floridians who choose not to or cannot put solar on their roof from the chains of artificial bill increases.
Eric Silagy is the chairman and chief executive officer of Florida Power & Light Company
Once again, the Miami Herald published a one-sided story slamming FPL and, as far as we can tell, has no plans to allow its readers to hear an opposing voice. In fact, the paper hasn’t even acknowledged it received our response, despite our submitting it within hours of the paper’s biased story. If history is any indication, there’s little chance you’ll have the opportunity to read our response in the Miami Herald, so we’ve posted it here.
It comes as little surprise that the Miami Herald has dialed up another sensational piece about FPL solely in the name of protecting the rooftop solar industry, which is actively lobbying to increase everyone’s electric rates to prop up its business.
Sadly, there’s little new to this story, which reads like a greatest hits of FPL grievances masquerading as balanced journalism.
Regurgitating half-truths and soundly rejected arguments, the Herald falsely asserts that FPL is hypocritical and actually OK with customers paying subsidies, facilitating as much in current rates.
Like most FPL articles cooked up by the Miami Herald, truth was left off the menu.
First, the Miami Herald amplifies an argument – rejected by the Florida Public Service Commission – that FPL residential customers subsidize business customers.
While this has served as a repeated talking point for FPL’s loudest critics, it’s still and has always been untrue.
Residential customers are not subsidizing business customers. In fact, the rate increase allocation to residential customers as part of our four-year rate plan – signed by the state’s consumer advocate -- is the lowest it’s been in 15 years.
Secondly, the paper misconstrues the facts of FPL’s voluntary community solar program – FPL SolarTogetherTM – which provides customers without rooftop solar the choice to offset 100% of their electric use with energy produced from some of our 50 solar plants throughout the state.
Incredibly popular and sold out, the program is the largest in the United States and is set to more than double in the coming years.
Rather than applaud a transformative program proudly developed in the Sunshine State, the paper, again, highlights arguments already rejected by state regulators multiple times and insists that customers who don’t participate in the program subsize those who do.
Conveniently, the paper overlooks how the program actually works and how it benefits all customers.
Non-participants are not expected to bear any of the cost responsibilities over the life of the solar power plants, but will share in about half the projected net system savings of nearly $650 million.
Lastly, the Miami Herald – using its go-to rolodex of pro-rooftop solar sources – propagates the myth that FPL is trying to double dip by gaining approval for a minimum base bill and advocating for net metering reform.
Once again, the Herald fails to point out that – as we’ve stated on many occasions – the minimum base bill for low usage customers is simply a step in the right direction to ensure all customers are contributing toward their fair share of fixed costs, which don’t vary with usage.
Which brings us to the state’s outdated net metering rules, which were put in place more than a decade ago to spur rooftop solar in Florida.
Now a multi-billion-dollar international empire, the rooftop solar industry can’t stand the thought of yet another state cutting back on financial handouts paid for through the electric bills of customers who can’t or choose not to buy rooftop systems.
For FPL, 99.5% of our customers pay $30 million per year to fund special bill credits for the 0.5% of customers who choose to buy private rooftop solar systems. This subsidy is projected to surpass $80 million by 2025.
As we’ve written to the paper many times, no one is doing more for solar than FPL. We support customers who choose to put solar on their roof. We just don’t think everyone else should be forced to pay for it – which is why we support legislation to modernize net metering in our state.
The question readers should ask is why the rooftop solar industry has avoided any iota of criticism from the Miami Herald, despite its intense lobbying for status quo handouts all in the name of corporate profits.
Dave Reuter is the chief communications officer for Florida Power & Light Company
It’s no secret – especially across Florida media – that FPL frequently offers rebuttals to newspaper editorials and guest columns. Look no further than the recent FPL opinion columns in the Tampa Bay Times and not one, but two pieces in the Sun Sentinel. Our rebuttals were critical of these newspapers’ positions. The editors at those papers asked us questions, requested clarity, offered feedback and even suggested copy edits. But each time, they confirmed our pieces would be published and did just that.
The result: Readers were allowed to hear a different perspective about the topic of net metering.
This is how the opinion section of a newspaper is supposed to work. Then, there’s the Miami Herald. With new opinion content published daily, the paper appears able and willing to offer its readers an array of voices. Unless, of course, that voice is FPL.
Just weeks after heavily editing and publishing an FPL piece under our name without our consent, the Miami Herald carved out prominent real estate in its opinion section for a rooftop solar company, vineyard owner and farmer to, among other things, accuse FPL of trying to kill rooftop solar.
FPL’s rebuttal – which was submitted to the Herald on Jan. 27 – has still not been published. In fact, the editorial board has only indicated it would, “give it a read.”
For the record, we’re still waiting.
Apparently, instead of reading our response and providing readers with another perspective, the paper was hard at work churning out another FPL hit piece, clearly intended to continue hiding the truth about net metering from readers.
Comically, the editorial board tries to play both sides of the issue – clamoring for a guarantee of lower bills while actively trying to poke holes in the plan to modernize an outdated state policy that is artificially driving up the electric rates of all customers for the benefit of a few.
That’s because the financial incentive to buy rooftop solar panels is paid for by FPL customers through higher electric bills.
Ironically, the legislation would grandfather current rooftop solar customers – meaning they would keep their subsidized bill credit for at least a decade. While that might make the Herald happy because they perceive that it hurts FPL, it also locks in higher electric rates for everyone else.
How’s that for a guarantee?
The paper claimed it reached out to us for comment. We looked and our records don’t reflect that, which is strange because we operate a media hotline that functions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is a simple phone call or email away.
The Miami Herald’s track record clearly shows it wouldn’t have mattered because it never lets the facts get in the way of a good anti-utility narrative.
Just look at how the paper repeatedly props up its editorials with so-called “investigative” journalism it knows is sourced from out-of-state organizations that are secretly funded by special interests.
Needless to say, the latest editorial from the Miami Herald doesn’t even warrant a full response.
Besides, it’d just linger in the paper’s inbox.
It’s no wonder why Miami Community Newspapers suggested it’s time to bring back storied publisher David Lawrence, Jr.
But frankly, enough about the Miami Herald. What matters is that Floridians know the truth about what’s really impacting their pocketbooks.
Net metering rules in Florida were created more than a decade ago to incentivize rooftop solar adoption when panels and installation costs were prohibitively expensive. Through net metering, customers with rooftop solar panels sell extra energy produced by their system to their electric utility.
Under current rules, investor-owned utilities in Florida – like FPL – must credit rooftop solar customers at the full retail rate for their excess energy, despite the fact that it’s not a retail product. For rooftop solar customers, net metering effectively lowers their bill through financial incentives paid for by all other customers. While the cost of solar panels has dramatically declined since 2008, net metering rules have remained the same.
The result: A growing, multi-million-dollar annual subsidy.
Today, 99.5% of our customers without rooftop solar panels are forced to pay an additional $30 million per year to support the 0.5% of customers who’ve made that private purchase. That subsidy is projected to nearly triple by 2025 to more than $80 million.
FPL supports legislation filed as part of the 2022 Florida Legislative Session that aims to update these rules to make them fair and equitable for all of our customers. While there’s been no shortage of media coverage on this topic, Florida Senator Jennifer Bradley explained to Clay Today why she supports the legislation and pushed back on criticism about collaborating with FPL.
At FPL, we support all types of solar energy and we support customers who choose to buy private rooftop solar customers. We simply believe that the rest of our customers shouldn’t be forced to pay for it. Florida benefits most when the largest amount of solar is installed at the lowest cost. That’s what we’re doing at FPL. Our large-scale, universal solar power plants are the fastest, most cost-effective way for us to bring more solar to Florida, while keeping bills low for customers over the long term.
Myth: The private rooftop solar industry claims updating the state-mandated net metering rules will put them out of business.
Reality: The numbers tell a much different story. Data from across the country demonstrate how the rooftop solar industry continued to grow, and saw only minimal decline in adoption, after net metering reform. For example, Arizona implemented revised net metering rules in January 2017 and there has been virtually no change in the monthly growth rate. Simply put, the rooftop solar industry was not run out of business.
Myth: FPL is trying to end rooftop solar and doesn’t support net metering customers
Reality: We always have and always will support customers who choose to install private solar systems and support them with a wide variety of tools including:
We work closely with net metering customers even providing them, at no cost, with an energy dashboard where they can see how much solar they are selling back to FPL and how much they are buying from FPL when their solar installation is not able to generate enough power to meet their energy demands, such as on cloudy days and at night. Anyone should be able to put solar on their roof, but we don’t think it’s right for everyone to be forced to help pay for it.
Myth: Crediting excess rooftop generation at the retail rate is a fair value
Reality: Excess rooftop solar energy is not a retail service and therefore should not be credited at a retail value. Fundamentally, FPL delivers electrons to homes and businesses across Florida. We charge customers a retail rate which incorporates all the other aspects of the service we provide – from maintaining and investing in poles and wires, tree trimming, customer service, billing, and restoration after a storm, just to name a few. Rooftop solar customers don’t provide any of those services yet are receiving that payment each month – at the expense of the 99.5% of customers who don’t have solar on their roof.
Additional content and perspectives
As one of Florida’s largest companies and the electricity provider to more than half the state, Florida Power & Light Company is accustomed to media scrutiny of nearly every aspect of our business.
We respect and value the role that a free press plays in our democracy, and we understand that our business is routinely newsworthy as it impacts many millions of Floridians. Equally, when we disagree with something that is written about us, we appreciate that newspapers across our state provide an opportunity for opposing viewpoints to be expressed in their ‘Opinion’ sections.
Unfortunately, that opportunity to express an opposing viewpoint appears to no longer include the Miami Herald.
On Dec. 20, the Miami Herald wrote a story on proposed legislation to alter Florida’s rooftop solar rules. The story was authored by the paper’s Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas, a reporter with a historically anti-utility bias, and included questionable sourcing from a secretive group linked to the multi-billion-dollar international rooftop solar industry. Not to mention the story was done in partnership with a brand new, self-described investigative journalism non-profit that “investigates the corporate interests holding back climate action.”
Unsurprisingly, we found the story to be incredibly one-sided and misleading on an issue of real importance to 18 million Floridians. So naturally, we broke out our keyboards to prepare a response that would provide additional perspective to the readers of the Herald. And that is when something extraordinary happened.
The Miami Herald refused to publish our full opinion editorial, choosing instead to run a heavily edited version – in their Dec. 26 print edition, buried in their ‘Letters to the Editor’ section. Only after we inquired why the edited version had yet to appear online did the paper post the same copy to their website, more than 24 hours after it originally published in print. Typically, news outlets publish to their websites first and follow with copy in their print editions.
Why did the Herald take such unusual steps to impede FPL’s opposing voice in their publication? Why did they run a heavily edited version with our name on it, without our consent, and fail to inform readers that it had been significantly edited? Only the paper can answer that, but the backstory provides some clues, including what we believe was plainly an attempt by the Herald to protect its reporter, a wish to diminish FPL’s response and a complete lack of leadership at one of Florida’s largest newspapers.
As you can see in the timeline posted here, it certainly wasn’t from a lack of FPL trying to encourage the Miami Herald leadership to do the right thing. Over the course of five days following our submission to the Herald, we sent five separate correspondences to the paper’s editorial board and executive leadership and followed that up with three separate phone calls, two of which were ultimately returned.
When we did finally connect with Nancy Ancrum, the editorial page editor, we were told that our submission was edited because it included “unsubstantiated” claims disparaging a member of their editorial staff. She told us that if we had proof of our claims, we would need to “take it up with the newsroom,” which in this case was executive editor Monica Richardson or senior editor for state and municipal government, Dave Wilson.
Shortly thereafter, we did connect with Dave Wilson. We explained to Mr. Wilson that we had recently learned about troubling conduct by Mary Ellen Klas during a committee meeting on redistricting at the State House. To confirm that conduct, on Dec. 22 we filed a Public Records Request with the Florida Senate for all public communications that may have included Ms. Klas. The Senate granted our request and provided FPL with a number of documents.
Two of the documents, shown here, indicate clear, substantiated evidence of bias and troubling conduct by Ms. Klas, who we feel should be adhering to the journalistic principle of impartiality. These documents include a Nov. 22 letter to executive editor Monica Richardson, which shows clearly that Miami Herald’s leadership did, in fact, have full knowledge of their reporter’s conduct prior to our OpEd submission.
Unfortunately, Mr. Wilson disagreed with our assessment and refused to make a decision about our OpEd. He told us we would need to speak with Monica Richardson, who was “out of the country and unavailable.” We also suggested that we would speak with Nancy Meyers, the publisher of the Herald, but soon learned that she was in the process of departing the company and unlikely to be of any assistance. Equally, Rick Hirsch, the managing editor of the newspaper, was days away from retirement.
Ultimately, not one single employee at the Miami Herald would make a decision about whether or not to print FPL’s full OpEd. And to date, Monica Richardson, the defacto head of the paper, has not reached out to FPL to discuss our repeated inquiries to consider this matter.
The Miami Herald’s lack of journalistic balance and determination to keep opposing viewpoints out of its publication is why FPL has taken our own extraordinary step to expose its actions.
You can judge for yourself why they may have taken the action that they did.
We encourage readers to look at the unprecedented letter that Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson sent to Miami Herald executive editor Monica Richardson, where he says, “it appears Mary Ellen Klas has crossed the line of reporting and informing to advocating for organizations that will bring litigation against the Legislature. Such collusion is not only inappropriate as a reporter, it puts Senators in a position to violate the policies and procedures I have set up in order to keep the process free from improper influence.”
You can judge for yourself if these materials substantiate a bias by Mary Ellen Klas.
And finally, we encourage readers to ask why the Miami Herald might have wanted to sweep FPL’s opposing voice ‘under the rug’ and away from its readers’ eyes. Was it to protect its Tallahassee bureau chief? To silence credible counterpoints by FPL?
Readers will have to judge this for themselves, but at least now they have the proper information to do so.
To date, FPL has received no follow-up from the Miami Herald, more than two weeks after our original submission.
Dec. 20 (6:00 a.m.) Miami Herald publishes story on proposed legislation to alter Florida’s rooftop solar rules.
Dec. 23 (9:15 a.m.) FPL sends opinion editorial submission to Miami Herald, by email to three editors, for consideration.
Dec. 23 (3:17 p.m.) After receiving no reply to our email earlier in the day, FPL calls Nancy Ancrum, editorial page editor, and leaves a voicemail.
Dec. 24 (12:35 p.m.) After receiving no reply to either our email or phone call, FPL resends email to three editors asking for a response.
Dec. 24 (12:45 p.m.) Nancy Ancrum replies to say, “Yes, received. I will let you know when it runs.” [Note: the story ran in print with no notification to FPL.]
Dec. 26 Miami Herald prints a heavily edited version of FPL’s submission, buried in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ section of the newspaper
Dec. 27 (10:21 a.m.) FPL again emails the Miami Herald editors to ask if they intend to publish the company’s response.
Dec. 27 (10:35 a.m.) Nancy Ancrum replies to inform FPL that they printed the response in their Sunday, Dec. 26 edition. She does not mention that it had been heavily edited.
Dec. 27 (11:36 a.m.) FPL attempts to phone Nancy Ancrum, but it goes to voicemail. A follow-up email asks her to contact us to discuss the submission.
Dec. 27 (12:09 p.m.) Nancy Ancrum calls FPL and informs the company that its submission ran in edited form in the print edition, because it included ‘unsubstantiated’ claims disparaging a member of their editorial staff. She suggests that FPL “take it up with the newsroom.”
Dec. 27 (1:27 p.m.) FPL sends Nancy Meyer (publisher), Monica Richardson (executive editor) and Dave Wilson (senior editor for state and municipal government) an email asking for a phone call to discuss why FPL’s submission was denied.
Dec. 27 (2:21 p.m.) Dave Wilson calls FPL to discuss the company’s submission, refusing to make a decision to print it and suggesting that only Monica Richardson can make that decision, but she is “out of the country and unavailable.”