Florida utility regulators on Tuesday powered down an $11.4 million program designed to promote green energy, but whose budget overwhelmingly funded marketing and administrative costs.
The program, operated by Florida Power & Light and Austin, Texas-based Green Mountain Energy Co., charged willing FPL customers a $9.75 monthly fee in addition to their regular power bills. In exchange, the parties bought energy credits and developed an extra 150 kilowatts of solar power for every 10,000 residential customers who signed on to the Sunshine Energy program.
But a Public Service Commission report last month said only 24 percent of the money collected from more than 38,000 households paid for actual energy. The rest funded marketing and administration costs to promote the program.
The Public Service Commission voted Tuesday to end the program, rather than revise it as FPL recommended. It moved to put future customer contributions into an escrow account and planned an audit of how Green Mountain managed the money.
FPL and Green Mountain said they upheld their end of the deal.
Paul Markovich, Green Mountain senior vice president, said the commission's suggestions the money was misappropriated were "distasteful." Markovich said Green Mountain spent $6 million to build the willing customer base from zero since the program began in late 2003, and still hadn't turned a profit in Florida.
"We have spent money on marketing, are cooperating with the commission to do an audit and verify money was spent, and that it was spent on growing the program," Markovich said. "These programs don't grow themselves. Customers don't wake up one day and say, 'I'm going to sign up for green power.'"
Markovich said similar Green Mountain programs in Oregon, New York and New Jersey worked the same way. However, he said it cost more money to market in Florida.
"From our perspective it was just turning the corner," Markovich said.