Florida shuts down utility's 'green' program as a fraud

State regulators Tuesday terminated a Florida Power & Light voluntary green energy program because three-fourths of the money customers were donating went to marketing and administrative costs, not to the purchase of energy from renewable sources.

By a unanimous vote, the Public Service Commission ended FPL's Sunshine Energy Program in which 39,000 customers have voluntarily added $9.75 to their monthly electric bill so that FPL could purchase renewable energy.

FPL in turn contracted with a Texas company, Green Mountain Energy, to carry out the program. PSC staff have been trying for months to find out where the money went, but all it could learn was that only 24 percent was going to purchase renewable energy.

Commissioner Nathan Skop, who once worked for an FPL sister company promoting renewables, said about $9 million in customers' money had gone "into a black hole where there is no transparency. . . . Clearly this is not right.''

Skop said the program was "a lot of marketing hype but very little of substance.''

FPL Vice President Wade Litchfield said the utility and Green Mountain were eager to work with the commission to explain where the money went. He said the Texas company had met the obligations of its contract with FPL.

Robert Thomas, chief legal officer of Green Mountain, said the company would continue to provide information about its expenses to regulators. "We have provided that cooperation in the past, and we will continue to work with the staff. . . . The money was spent for legitimate marketing expenses and other legitimate expenses.''

Commissioner Skop said that ''no reasonable person would have contributed to this program knowing that 80 percent'' of their money "was not going to renewables.''

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