What Does an Electricity Choice Market Mean for Florida?

Florida has been considering deregulating its electricity market—a controversial topic in recent months. If you live in the Sunshine State, you’ve probably heard the buzz about implementing an energy choice market.

Texas, Oregon, California, and several other states (particularly in the eastern part of the country) have already been experimenting with various levels of electricity deregulation. In Texas, about 85% of consumers can choose where they get their electricity from.

What does this mean for Florida residents? Some stakeholders assert that it will bring consumers freedom and benefit your pocketbook. Others fear the risks associated with revamping the existing electricity system. Read on to learn about Florida’s electricity choice proposal and how it could affect people throughout the state.

The State of the Debate

Currently, groups like Citizens for Energy Choices and Florida for Energy Freedom are advocating for an amendment to the state’s constitution that would allow for consumer choice of electricity utility.

If the amendment passes, electricity utilities will continue to own and manage transmission and distribution channels, but they will no longer own the power plants. Other companies will purchase those power generation plants, or create new ones, and sell power to consumers.

The choice is ultimately in the hands of consumers. In 2020, Florida voters could decide whether their state becomes an electricity choice state—if the initiative makes it onto the ballet. For that to happen, it needs 766,200 signatures, and as of early July, it had almost half that number. 

The ballot initiative is calledRight to Competitive Energy Market for Customers of Investor-Owned Utilities.”

Benefits

In a deregulated market, providers compete to offer the lowest price, which can benefit consumers financially (at least in theory). Each company then strives to produce electricity in the most cost-effective way in order to offer the best bargain.

In Texas, the average price of residential electricity has plummeted by over 23% between 2008 and 2017.

In such markets, consumers can also choose which type of energy to rely on, opting for renewables over fossil fuels. Thus, they can support the transition to cleaner energy, directly benefiting their environment, health, and the climate. For this reason, an electricity choice market can be attractive to environmental groups. 

Further, a broader array of organizations and individuals could sell power to the grid. The SunSentinel notes that a Florida farmer could decide to install a solar array to sell the energy it produces, which encourages smaller-scale renewable development, benefits local economies, and promotes energy independence.

Criticisms

Opponents of deregulation assert that it hasn’t worked out as planned in other states due to the complexity of revamping the system. According to Tom Feeney, head of Associated Industries of Florida, the changes would put energy production in the hands of new companies that don’t have experience navigating challenges that Florida’s utilities must contend with, such as hurricanes. This would bring great risk and financial burden to consumers. Utilities assert that the changes will drive prices up by putting power production in the hands of inexperienced corporations.

Will Floridians decide to deregulate their electricity market in favor of energy choice? Stay tuned to the debate on this issue to learn how it resolves in the coming months.

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