Reports that our local power company, NextEra Energy and its subsidiary FPL, used a consultant to nullify the election, dig up dirt on city officials, spy on a reporter, and suggest other malicious ways to do propaganda for profit and to wipe the slate clean of those who might question it, is disheartening and despicable.
Clearly, the executive suite of this Fortune 500 company has become far too insular. Call us naive, but even considering hiring consultants who specialize in such behavior is beyond atrocious and calls for immediate action from shareholders. We have to be scared, because this news only surfaced through the grace of internal warfare at Matrix, LLC. consulting firm, what else FPL could conjure up that we don’t know.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that utility CEO Eric Silagy ordered his subordinates to make life “hell” for a state legislator whose bill would allow landlords to sell to tenants of cheap solar power, bypassing FPL. Public service consultants asked someone with the same last name to run against the offending state senator, splitting the vote and ousting the senator in the next election. The ringer later said he was bribed to do so.
After:FPL consultants secretly took command and control of Florida news website, reports say
Emails and other leaked documents to the Sentinel and the Miami Herald showed that the hands hired by the public service had a Jacksonville reporter who had written critically about the FPL.
And if you can’t convince the media, why not be the media? “Matrix also wielded political influence through the press, with its operatives taking control of a Tallahassee-based political news site, The Capitolist. This gave Matrix consultants and FPL leaders direct input on stories from the Capitol,” the Sentinel wrote.
“Site editor Brian Burgess, a former spokesman for former Florida Governor Rick Scott, also suggested in emails that Matrix should lure prominent Florida journalists to a new site or purchase local newspapers owned by media giant Gannett Co. (owner of that newspaper and the Palm Beach Daily News) and then fired most of the “clown reporters” for “injecting content” into the publications without anyone knowing who was “shooting strings.” This proposal was forwarded to Silagy at the FPL but never came to fruition.
Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School, told the Sentinel that the “main purpose” of companies like Matrix “is to cover up that it’s the utility doing this.”
FPL ignored the reports. A spokesperson said buying media wouldn’t make commercial sense.
FPL has the right to lobby for higher tariffs and higher profits. Earlier this year, the state gave them a new round of increases to implement over the next few years. It’s just business. The company jumped on the shark, however, when in addition to rate hikes for itself, it lobbied for the state to lower the rates homeowners get for reselling electricity from their solar panels. on the roof at the public service. The company, which has worked commendably to increase solar capacity in recent years, argued that it would be more efficient for it to be the one collecting solar energy rather than further incentivize individual homeowners. It was a greedy move and the press and the public understood it.
But these latest revelations show that this was only a clue to behind-the-scenes attitudes that put profits above conscience.
NextEra presents itself to the public as a knight in shining armor, with its steady improvements in hurricane preparedness and response, and its transitions from oil to natural gas, the expansion of solar generation and green hydrogen research as another alternative fuel source. It employs thousands of people across the state and by all appearances serves customers well, a good example of a business for everyone. But its muscular behind-the-scenes efforts to control public debate prove that elements within NextEra harbor Stone Age attitudes and methods.
The shareholders, regulators and taxpayers who allow it to generate big monopoly profits must curb these moves if NextEra’s executives don’t do it themselves, because the one thing that isn’t easy for a big company to generate of electricity is trust.