A lobbyist for Consumer Energy Alliance-Florida praised several utilities for their response to Hurricane Irma in a letter to the editor published by Jacksonville.com, but did not disclose that some of those same utilities are members of his group.

Kevin Doyle, the executive director of CEA-Florida and a lobbyist for the group, said in his letter that Florida’s electricity providers “should get some special attention” for their response to the widespread power outages caused by Hurricane Irma.

Doyle gave shout outs to “Florida Power & Light, JEA, Gulf Power, and members of the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association…” FPL and JEA are listed as members on the national Consumer Energy Alliance’s website, as is the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association – a fact Doyle did not disclose in his letter to the editor.

CEA’s membership also includes a long list of fossil fuel and utility interests, as well as industry trade groups. The group is run by HBW Resources, a national PR and lobbying firm. Doyle works for Wexford Strategies, a lobbying firm in Jacksonville and Tallahassee. The firm’s “strategic partnership” with HBW Resources is heavily promoted to clients on its website.

Hurricanes always create a challenging time for our state,” Doyle said in his letter to the editor. “However, it doesn’t always need to be this difficult.”

Doyle’s right about that, but wrong about the solution. One of his proposals is to develop offshore energy resources, which for CEA means oil and natural gas. In the age of climate change, locating fossil fuel infrastructure in hurricane and storm surge zones is risky business.

Lineworkers do deserve credit for working hard to restore power to millions of utility customers in Florida. But Doyle’s enthusiastic praise for his clients seems premature at a time when 1.5 millions are still without power in the Sunshine State.  

Our restoration efforts have been slowed by the historic flooding, which deposited 200 billion gallons of water in just a few days across our service territory, which covers some 900 square miles,” according to a storm update from JEA published on the same day as Doyle’s letter to the editor.

Utilities could have been more prepared. They knew 30 years ago that climate change could impact the electric grid with  “more severe storms” and “destructive waves” caused by sea level rise. But utilities like Southern Company, the parent company of Gulf Power, have wasted precious time by denying the science on climate change.

Why? The reason is simple. These utilities own power plants that burn fossil fuels and emit carbon dioxide, a primary contributor to climate change. In fact, FPL, JEA, and Southern Company all own a share a share of Scherer Station, one of the nation’s largest carbon emitters.

The good news is a better way is possible. As we saw during Hurricane Irma, solar power and battery storage provided clean energy that helped keep the lights on.

A NOOA/CIRA satellite image of Hurricane Irma off the cost of Florida

Posted by Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson is the policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. Dave has been working at the nexus of clean energy and public policy since 2008. Prior to joining the Energy and Policy Institute, he was an outreach coordinator for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is also an alumnus of the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Climate Protection (now the Climate Reality Project). Dave’s research has helped to spur public scrutiny of political attacks on clean energy and climate science by powerful special interests, such as ExxonMobil and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). His work has been cited by major media outlets, such as CBS News and the Wall Street Journal, and he has served as a speaker on panels at national solar industry conferences. Dave holds a MA in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire, where he also received a BA in Humanities.