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Peter Key's picture
Freelance Writer, Editor, Consultant Lansdowne, Pa.

I've been a business journalist since 1985 when I received an MBA from Penn State. I covered energy, technology, and venture capital for The Philadelphia Business Journal from 1998 through 2013....

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  • Jun 18, 2021 9:06 pm GMT

The best ways an electric utility can convince its customers that it cares for them are to actually care for them and behave accordingly.

This story from the Tampa Bay Times makes Florida Power & Light look like it's not interested in doing either.

The Times found that over a 13-year period through 2020, the utility reported 118 deaths from people coming into contact with its power lines or other equipment — more than double the deaths from similar causes reported by all the other electric companies in Florida combined.

The paper also found that although FPL serves roughly the same number of customers as the state’s other utilities in total, it has about six times the number of deaths from people touching or trimming vegetation.

Despite that, FPL trims trees around neighborhood power lines less often than the state’s other investor-owned utilities and has fought proposals and ignored expert recommendations to trim more frequently, according to the Times report.

No company should ever find itself the subject of this kind of story because no company should ever skimp on measures that enable it to save its customers' lives.

The Times reported that the Florida Public Service Commission recommended in the mid-2000s that the state's electric utilities trim vegetation by both power lines on main streets and neighborhood power lines every three years. FPL, the paper said, asked for and was granted permission to do it every six years instead. The company said at the time that the longer cycle would save it $30 million a year.

I don't know what that extra $30 million a year has gotten FPL shareholders and top executives, but it's gotten the company some deservedly bad publicity and cost some of its customers their lives.

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