David Hastings, of the Suwannee St. John’s Sierra Club, has written an insightful piece about why Rep. Chuck Clemons’ hostile takeover of Gainesville Regional Utilities is a very bad idea. His article was posted on theinvadingsea.com and can be read in its entirety here.
Florida House Bill 1645 would transfer control of GRU from the city commission to a board appointed by the governor, allegedly because GRU debt and rates are too high.
Here is a recap of Hastings’ main points:
While the rationale is that customers need to be protected, the bill blatantly disregards Gainesville’s citizens, who voted by a 60% majority to defeat nearly identical measure in 2018.
There is no indication that GRU is in financial distress, based on investment grade bond ratings. In fact, all three major bond rating agencies give GRU top tier ratings – better than Duke and Florida Power and Light (FPL).
While critics say that GRU electrical rates are high, the actual bill for is lower than for investor-owned utilities. The average GRU monthly electric bill in 2021 was $103 for residential customers, compared to $125, $143 and $135 per month for FPL, Duke and TECO, respectively.
Transferring control to GRU to a state-appointed Authority would likely result in the eventual ruin of GRU, with an investor-owned utility like FPL taking control.
Publicly owned power companies like GRU provide distinct advantages including local control, financial support for city government and assistance to low-income customers. As climate impacts continue to worsen, GRU has focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency as well as environmental stewardship
Rep. Clemons simply doesn’t care about any of these things. Once again we have to ask: Who exactly is he working for?