Profits Over People, Florida Governor DeSantis Calls Out Lee County Electric Cooperative for Intentionally Delaying Power Restoration, Here is the Backstory

Posted originally on the conservative tree house on October 1, 2022 | Sundance

October 1, 2022 | Sundance | 64 Comments

The Lee County Electric Cooperative (LCEC) provides power utility coverage to approximately 200,000 homes in Sanibel, Cape Coral and Pine Island: three of the hardest hit western zone regions in the Hurricane Ian disaster.  Hundreds of people have asked me in my extensive travels why there are zero power trucks visible in Cape Coral working on the power grid, downed power lines and broken infrastructure.  Now, it looks like we have the answer.

What LCEC is intentionally doing is jaw-dropping.  In all my years of hurricane recovery, there has never –NEVER– been a more crystal-clear example of a decision to put profits over people.  LCEC is literally taking advantage of tens of thousands of vulnerable residents. Tonight, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is calling them out [LINK].  I will explain what is happening, but first check out the DeSantis message:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, after receiving a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center on current efforts to restore power in Southwest Florida, Governor DeSantis called on the Lee County Electric Cooperative (LCEC) to accept additional mutual aid to expedite power restoration to the residents of Cape Coral, North Fort Myers, Sanibel and Pine Island.

At this time, Florida Power and Light (FPL) has restored power to more than 45% of their accounts in Lee County, while LCEC has only restored power to 9% of their accounts (18,000 out of 183,000 customers). To assist in restoration efforts, the Florida Electrical Cooperatives Association has readied resources from its members around the state that are available to deploy on mutual aid.

Mutual aid would allow the LCEC to expedite power restoration, especially to Cape Coral and North Fort Myers as residents return to their homes and begin the road to recovery. Power restoration in these areas is also essential to resume the full use of essential services such as health care facilities, operation of schools and ensure access to running water. (link)

Please share this part far and wide.  You know me to call the baby ugly when warranted; this is one such time. People in the impact zone need to know what is happening.

The Lee County Electric Cooperative (LCEC) purchases energy from Florida Power and Light (FP&L).  LCEC then passes along the energy cost to the Sanibel, Cape Coral and Pine Island residents in the form of traditional electricity billing.

Most of the energy provided by FP&L to southwest Florida comes from natural gas used to generate electricity.  Natural gas prices have skyrocketed.  Because natural gas has spiked in price so quickly; and because there is a natural lag in billing customers before payment is due; LCEC was temporarily billing people less than the current cost of the energy they were purchasing from FP&L.

The price billed to LCEC customers was short-term lower than the price LCEC was paying for the energy.  This resulted in a tens of million-dollar losses for LCEC. [NOTE: this is what is happening in Europe and why the EU central bank is subsidizing free short-term bridge loans to smaller electricity providers]

Rather than add another surcharge to the LCEC customers to make up the difference, LCEC is now using Hurricane Ian as an opportunity to true-up their costs and balance the deficit.

As long as zero electricity is being purchased from FP&L; and as long as customers pay their electricity bills by October 9th (due date), LCEC will have a substantive period of time where their receipts (from customers) exceed their purchases (from FP&L).   With inbound income and no outbound expenses, the previous financial deficit is removed.

How does LCEC stop purchasing energy?….  Simple, they just don’t rebuild the power grind, thereby delaying the need for payments to FP&L.

This is why there is almost ZERO effort to restore power in Cape Coral, Pine Island and North Fort Myers and mutual aid providers asking why?

LCEC leadership will likely try to hide behind plausible deniability due to the severity of the damage combined with their “non-profit” status.  But make no mistake, we are five days post event and LCEC is not even removing downed power poles and power lines.  The mutual aid utility companies are standing there wondering why LCEC is not asking for help.  The slow pace is akin to doing almost nothing.

This is a top-level decision by LCEC leadership to put operational profit over the urgent power restoration need of their customers.  I guarantee you Florida Governor Ron DeSantis knows exactly what LCEC is doing, and why LCEC is doing it.  Unfortunately, DeSantis is being politically diplomatic in sending a shot across their bow rather than directly explain to people what the true motive is behind LCEC’s decision.

Those of you I have met in recent recovery efforts, there’s the answer to your question.  LCEC is not making any effort to restore power because LCEC doesn’t want to restore power; at least not yet.  A few opportunistic weeks without having to purchase energy covers the prior financial deficit.  Yes, Hurricane Ian has provided them an opportunity to recover previous financial losses.

Angry?  You bet I’m angry.  Now imagine if 200,000 people found out what is really going on.

This is the single most egregious example of putting profits over people in all my years of Hurricane recovery and relief.   LCEC is literally blocking recovery efforts because there is a financial reason not to recover.  Meanwhile, thousands of people are suffering, businesses are closed and losing money. Worse still food, fuel, healthcare services and water recovery (so much more) are being blocked by this LCEC decision.

Ron DeSantis was far too kind in his approach…. screw the donations and politics of Big Energy.  Put Attorney General Ashley Moody on it now or use the power of the Florida Governor’s Office to take control over the utility provider.

Do not give Charlie Crist this opening.  Go full wolverine, now.

That said, let’s watch and see how LCEC responds to the forceful nudge.

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