By John Hielscher Staff Writer
Posted at 5:05 PM Updated at 5:05 PM
A group of air conditioning contractors is protesting Florida Power & Light’s expansion into the home services business.
The new alliance, MEP Coalition for Fair Competition, includes business owners from Southwest Florida who accuse FPL of “predatory practices” by leveraging assets from its state-regulated power business to move into unregulated services like air conditioning.
The coalition wants the state Public Service Commission, which regulates FPL electric rates, and the Legislature to intervene and protect their interests.
“They will not stop with HVAC,” Keith Martin, co-owner of Badger Bob’s Services in Sarasota, said in announcing the coalition. “If they are allowed to get away with it, they will continue their expansion into electrical, plumbing and additional industries.”
Officials from FPL did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment.
The utility, Florida’s largest that serves 10 million people across half the state, operates FPL Energy Services, an unregulated subsidiary that offers energy-related products and services like surge protection, water heater and plumbing protection and backup generators.
The coalition contends that as the nation’s third-largest electric company, FPL can improperly access customer data, infrastructure and market power to dominate smaller businesses in air conditioning and other services.
“We are not afraid to compete, but we should not have to compete against a ratepayer-funded monopoly,” said Jaime DiDomenico, president of Cool Today in Sarasota. “We want a level and fair playing field.”
Organizers of the coalition — MEP is an acronym for mechanical, electrical and plumbing — include the Manasota Air Conditioning Contractors Association, whose members are from Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. Others are the South Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association, the Southwest Florida Air Conditioning Contractors Association and the Florida Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Contractors Association.