The City of Sarasota meets this evening to further debate its ongoing negotiations with Florida Power & Light over the possible renewal of the contract that guarantees the city a piece of Sarasotans’ energy bills in exchange for a monopoly on energy delivery within city limits. But one major difference of opinion could prove intractable.
FPL is insisting that the contract — called a franchise agreement — last 30 years, a time span Sarasota city commissioners are reluctant to embrace, given their expressed desire to increase the city’s usage of renewable energy. “Our world is changing very fast,” Commissioner Richard Clapp said at a May meeting. “Thirty years is going to be pretty different, particularly in the field of energy.”
At that meeting, the commission voted to propose a five-year franchise agreement, but a letter dated last Friday from FPL attorney Patrick Bryan (which you can read in full or download below) suggests the company won’t even consider that idea. “FPL cannot … agree to a franchise term of less than 30 years,” he wrote. “As has been explained previously to the City, FPL’s franchise ‘model’ is based on a 30-year term. A portfolio of short term franchises provides little or no benefit to FPL.”
Bryan’s missive comes on the heels of one-on-one meetings FPL held with city commissioners last week, during which the company made clear its insistence on a 30-year deal.
Asked what he thinks will happen at this evening’s workshop, Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner says he thinks FPL will continue to be “adamant” on the issue. Kirschner points out that the city only makes up a tiny portion of FPL’s current portfolio, and suggests the company is mainly concerned that agreeing to a deal shorter than 30 years could set a “precedent” for its dealings with other municipalities.
No votes are on tonight’s agenda, though. “It will be gathering information,” Kirschner says. “If anything, there will be consensus to give direction to staff to pursue further analysis.”
We’ll have an update tomorrow morning.