Trust us, they said.
Trust us, because we’re the largest developer of alternative sources of energy in the world. We really know what we’re doing.
Trust us to build wind turbines near your coastline. Yes, they’d be very tall, but don’t worry. After all, we live here, too.
Trust us, we wouldn’t do anything to harm the environment, to hurt birds and wildlife. This is our home, too you know.
The “we” here is Florida Power & Light Co.
I’m sorry, but recent revelations about FPL’s “green energy” practices make me trust them even less than I did before.
Which wasn’t much.
You’ve all heard about FPL’s St. Lucie wind turbine project. You may or may not support it.
Many people believe renewable energy sources like this are exactly what the doctor ordered. Others are more skeptical. They worry about adverse effects on birds and wildlife. Some think turbines will be noisy and visually intrusive. Many doubt there’s even enough wind here to make turbines spin efficiently.
Then there are skeptics like me who think the project has more to do with slick accounting practices and tax breaks than honest-to-goodness energy production.
Trust us, FPL still says, it’ll all work out fine.
News this week about FPL shredded that trust factor quite a lot more.
The state-appointed watchdog, the Public Service Commission, has accused FPL of misleading its own customers.
Since 2003, FPL’s Sunshine Energy Program has encouraged green-minded customers to contribute toward costly cutting-edge projects.
As of 2007, 33,917 of the faithful were paying a $9.95 surcharge on their bills. FPL has collected $11.4 million.
This week the PSC slammed FPL for spending most of that money ($8.6 million) on public relations and promotions materials, not on actual windmills or solar panels in Florida. To add insult to injury, the promotions money went to a company in Texas.
“If the Sunshine Energy Program is to continue, the program must be redesigned to address state renewable energy policies and to better serve the interest of the program’s participants,” the report said.
FPL constantly reminds us what a good neighbor they are. And in many ways that’s true. Aside from a few minor hiccups, the St. Lucie nuclear plant has been a model operation. If approved, their wind turbines might be more of the same right stuff.
Yet the PSC report (www.psc.state.fl.us) raises important questions about whether the utility acts in the best interest of its customers.
Good faith is an elusive commodity. You have to earn trust, not fritter it away.
29 June 2008
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