NextEra Energy is the largest generator of renewable energy in the United States and possibly the world.
Despite its position as a renewable energy generator, the company has been shrouded in controversy – the most recent of which has to do with Florida Power & Light (FPL), one of the companies operating beneath them. FPL engaged with dark money political committees to keep their profits safe in the wake of proposed legislation.
Possible outcomes from this scandal include increased wariness of NextEra from individuals and politicians, which could put the growth of clean energy at risk.
A history of lobbying and scandals
Unlike other companies that actively work toward creating clean energy, NextEra stumbled into the renewable energy industry somewhat unintentionally.
NextEra was a traditional utility company when it was started in 1925. They remained that way until they took a stake in early wind farms in exchange for canceling the debts owed to them.
Since then, they’ve become skilled at creating and maintaining wind farms, and today their power reaches far beyond Florida.
Though the Florida Power & Light scandal is one of the more recent topics bringing NextEra to the forefront of public attention, the company is certainly no stranger to controversy. In November 2021, for example, the company spent $20 million to ban the 145-mile transmission line needed to transport clean energy in Maine.
This decision flew somewhat under the radar, unlike the situation at Florida Power & Light.
The Florida power & light scandal
Florida Power & Light has a monopoly on power in Florida. Their power over utilities in Florida was challenged by legislation proposed by the Democratic Senator of Florida, José Javier Rodríguez, in 2019. The proposed bill would allow landlords to sell cheap solar panels to their tenants.
Though this bill had massive potential to make clean energy more accessible for everyday people, FPL realized their profits would be cut if it were passed.
Almost immediately, FPL reached out to the CEO of Matrix, LLC – a political consulting firm. Rodríguez lost his Senate seat the following year, resulting in Republicans gaining control of the Florida Senate.
Matrix spent big money on advertising for another candidate with the same last name as Rodríguez to split the vote. The other candidate later revealed that he had been bribed to run.
While FPL maintains they didn’t know the full extent of what the firm was doing, piles of leaked emails and texts say otherwise. The scandal brings light to the measures electric companies will go to in order to protect their profits – even those that claim to be in favor of pursuing renewable energy.
How NextEra’s scandals could affect the growth of clean energy
A lot is riding on NextEra in the race to clean energy. As the biggest player in the game, investors, politicians, and civilians rely on NextEra to play a major role in encouraging and supporting clean energy legislation.
If trust in NextEra dwindles—and seemingly it has, if stock recommendations are anything to judge by—people might be less willing to consider the installation of a wind farm in their community.
The shady business practices of FPL, as well as the discrepancy between NextEra being a catalyst in the clean energy movement while FPL relies on fossil fuels, may not bode well. It’s hard to predict what the scandal will mean for clean energy in the future or if it will have any effect at all. It depends on how trustworthy community members find NextEra in the coming months and how that support affects any proposed clean energy legislation.