FPL gets green light for Sabal Trail pipeline; Trump hails Dakota Access

The Sabal Trail and Florida Southeast Connection natural gas pipelines have been given permission to start pushing through gas that will serve Florida Power & Light’s South Florida plants.

The $4 billion pipeline that starts in Alabama has been controversial, and litigation seeking to prevent it from operating is still in the court system.

FPL’s Riviera Beach plant is among those fueled by natural gas.

» Eminent domain and BBQ: When they build a pipeline on your land

The approvals were announced the same day that, in a speech advocating his infrastructure plan, President Donald Trump boasted that the Dakota Access pipeline is in operation, too.

“I’m also very proud to say the Dakota Access Pipeline is now officially open for business,” Trump said. “It was dead 120 days ago, and now it is officially open for business.”

Click here to read about the Sierra Club’s objections.

» Protest to target Sabal Trail, other pipelines as Trump departs

Friday, Rich McGuire, Federal Regulatory Energy Commission’s director, Division of Gas, Environment and Engineering gave the the go-ahead in a letter to William Lavarco of Florida Southeast Connection. The 126-mile underground pipeline runs from Osceola County south of Orlando to FPL’s Indiantown plant.

FPL spokesman Dave McDermitt said Friday that the pipeline is expected to be operating by early next week.

Construction on the $4 billion project began in August 2016.

» Feds give go-ahead to Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline project

In a separate letter also issued Friday FERC officials gave Sabal Trail Transmission permission to begin operating:

  • 482.4 miles of mainline (and associated appurtenances) between the northern interconnect in Tallapoosa County, Alabama and the southern interconnect in Osceola County, Florida;
  • Alexander City Compressor Station in Tallapoosa County, Alabama;
  • Reunion Compressor Station in Osceola County, Florida; and
  • Transco Hillabee, Gulfstream, and FSC Meter and Regulator Station
  • FPL says the state’s other two pipelines are at capacity, and it needs more cheap, clean natural gas to generate electricity for the state’s growing population. FPL’s transition to natural gas to produce about 70 percent of its power has enabled the company to retire older oil and coal-burning plants.The project has been widely opposed by environmental groups and residents of the communities along the route. They have asserted that the pipeline will harm the Florida Aquifer, which supplies water to millions of people in Florida and Georgia, and could damage wetlands, scenic rivers and wildlife habitat and pose a safety threat













Proposed bill would allow FPL to charge customers for fracking ventures

A gas fracking operation is shown here.

Last May  in a win for Florida Power & Light customers, the Florida Supreme Court reversed a Florida Public Service Commission decision allowing FPL to charge ratepayers for an oil and gas exploration and drilling venture in Oklahoma.

Now two bills introduced in the Florida House and Senate on Tuesday would change the law to allow FPL to charge customers for what the court called a speculative venture that lacked legislative authority.

 SB 1238,  sponsored by Sen.  Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, HB 1043, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford,  if approved, would allow utilities which have at least 65 percent natural gas-fueled generation to charge customers for its “prudent” investments in gas reserves and associated expenses.

FPL is the only electric utility in Florida that uses that much natural gas.

Jon Moyle, an attorney representing the Florida Industrial Power Users Group said Wednesday, “FPL’s latest business venture of wildcatting for oil and natural gas in Oklahoma, Texas and other states should not be funded by FPL’s captive customers.  While other oil and gas companies must compete to earn a profit, this legislation guarantees monopolistic FPL a healthy profit on its oil and natural gas drilling ventures, regardless of whether or not FPL’s ventures save ratepayers money.  The oil and gas business is very competitive and risky, and not something for which the Legislature should force FPL’s ratepayers to pay as part of their monthly electric bill.”

The PSC would adopt a rule requiring that any such  investment is projected to generate savings for customers over the life of the investment.

In December 2014 the PSC approved FPL’s request to collect the cost of its $191 million fracking venture with PetroQuest in Oklahoma’s Woodford Shale region from its customers through fuel charges on their bills.

Then in June 2015, the PSC gave FPL the go-ahead to invest as much as $500 million a year in natural gas drilling operations, effectively making the utility and its customers partners in what can be a risky business. FPL uses natural gas to provide about 70 percent of the fuel to run its power plants.

FPL was ordered to refund customers $24.5 million it had spent on the Woodford project.





FPL doubling up on solar, plans to build eight new solar plants by 2018

FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center in Charlotte County is one of three solar power plants FPL completed in 2016. l(PRNewsFoto/Florida Power & Light Company)
FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center in Charlotte County is one of three solar power plants FPL completed in 2016.(PRNewsFoto/Florida Power & Light Company)

Florida Power & Light Co. is doubling the number of new universal solar power plants it plans to add by early 2018, FPL president and CEO Eric Silagy said Monday.

Juno Beach-based FPL previously announced it would construct four new 74.5 megawatt plants this year.   Now that is doubling to eight solar photovoltaic plants that will have a total of more than 2.5 million solar panels. Each one will produce enough electricity to power 15,000 homes.

To view video of FPL’s solar plants, click here.

“We have been working hard to drive down the costs of adding solar so we can deliver even more zero-emissions energy to all of our customers,” Silagy said.

“Universal” solar refers to the fact that the plants produce power that goes into the grid to the benefit of all, Silagy said.

The plants will be located at sites across Florida, including three previously announced locations in Alachua, Putnam and DeSoto counties. Sites for five of the plants have not been revealed yet, but each takes up about 700 acres and land costs are a major factor, Silagy said.

“Land costs is something we are very focused on. You want to have contiguous space. We don’t want to disturb the environment any more than we need do,” Silagy said.

Silagy, who was returning Monday from an event at the new solar plant completed in December in the Manatee County town of Parrish, said that land was formerly cattle pasture.

While the cows aren’t there any more, Silagy said  herds of sheep are put to work eating the grass that grows under the solar panels, which saves on mowing costs.
“We have herds of sheep all over the place. We have sheep herders that move them around,” Silagy said.

Construction on the new plants is expected to begin this spring.  FPL solar plants that came online in December in Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties cost about $130 million each, and Silagy said he expects the new plants to be built for 25 to 30 percent less than that.

Costs have come down for the panels, and like anything else, buying in bulk helps.

“When you order a million panels, the first thing that happens is everyone returns your phone calls, and they work really hard to earn your business,” Silagy said.

FPL’s plant built in 2009 in DeSoto County has 90,000 panels and produces 25 megawatts of power and cost $100 million to build.

In November the Florida Public Service Commission approved a settlement agreement allowing an $811 million rate hike for FPL which began in January.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, FPL can undertake the construction of 300 megawatts of solar photovoltaic generation each year as long as it is cost-effective. FPL can charge customers for the solar installations.
The PSC must approve the costs and the company has to show there will be no net cost to customers after savings from fuel and other generation-related expenses. FPL uses natural gas, a fossil fuel, to generate more than 70 percent of the electricity it produces.

Silagy said that over the life of the solar plants, the fuel savings will be greater than what the solar plants cost to build.

The cost of the plants completed in 2016 is included in customers’ base rates. Customers will not experience any bill increases when the eight planned plants come into service, Silagy said.

FPL currently operates more than 335 megawatts of solar generating capacity, enough to power 60,000 homes.


Sierra Club files Florida Supreme Court suit to block FPL rate hike

FPL's Riviera Beach plant is among those fueled by natural gas.
FPL’s Riviera Beach plant is among those fueled by natural gas.

Sierra Club  filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the Florida Supreme Court to block Florida Power & Light’s rate hike for an energy plan that the environmental group says “bilks millions of customers and further locks the Sunshine State into an over-reliance on financially risky, climate-disrupting gas.”

On Nov. 29, the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approved FPL’s $811 million base rate increase following a settlement between the company and  three customer groups. The rate increase took effect this month.

Prior to the rate increase’s approval, Sierra Club had submitted nearly 6,000 comments to the commission from Floridians who said the rate increase posed an economic hardship for them. The commenters also stressed that there’s no need for the gas-burning power plants in Florida.

Tuesday, FPL issued a statement calling the Sierra Club “an extreme group which takes extreme positions.”

The Sierra Club objects to FPL’s reliance on natural gas, which is used to produce about 70 percent of its electricity, while using solar energy to produce less than 1 percent.  It asserts that the Florida Public Service Commission violated Florida law in approving the rate increase.

Sierra Club officials said Florida law states that utilities may raise rates only after the PSC agrees that the increase is prudent and necessary to continue providing reliable, affordable power. To comply with Florida law, FPL was required to present the PSC—and the public—with substantial evidence to prove the gas plants were needed and were the least-cost option before building the plants or asking to raise customers’ rates to cover the costs.

FPL spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood said in a statement Tuesday:

“The Sierra Club is an extreme group that takes extreme positions, so while we are disappointed, we’re not surprised at the actions taken today by this Washington-based lobbying group.   Apparently they’re more interested in generating headlines and donations than working with the cleanest electric company in Florida and the only electric utility in the Southeast United States to already be in compliance with the EPA’s 2030 Clean Power Plan today.

“Rather than recognizing our innovative approach to running our business and the resulting significant benefits for all customers, including 1,200 megawatts of cost-effective new solar right here in Florida over the next four years, this out-of-state group is instead moving forward with more frivolous, expensive litigation that will cost all Floridians – not just FPL customers, but all Florida taxpayers,” Gatewood said.

“After a nearly year-long process that included more than 30 witnesses, countless hours of cross examination by attorneys for all parties, including the Sierra Club, and hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence, FPL and the Office of Public Counsel, which represents all customers, as well as other major customer stakeholder groups, reached a fair settlement that is clearly in the best interest of all of FPL’s customers – and the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously agreed.

“The settlement supports billions of dollars in planned investments to continue improving FPL’s electrical infrastructure, which is already one of the cleanest and most reliable in the U.S., while still keeping typical customer bills lower than they were in 2006 through 2020. We look forward to demonstrating those benefits yet again,” Gatewood said.

Sierra Club also criticized the $3 billion 515-mile Sabal Trail pipeline slated to be completed this year. It will  transport fracked gas to central Florida and then to FPL’s South Florida plants.

The pipeline’s construction threatens local waterways and wetlands and the fragile limestone surrounding the Floridan Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world, the Sierra Club and others contend.

“There’s absolutely no justification for making families and businesses pay more of our hard-earned money just so FPL can line its shareholders’ pockets and pollute our air and water in the process,” said Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone.

Sierra Club Florida Chapter Chair Mark Walters said, “The PSC is supposed to make sure our energy sources are safe, reasonable and reliable. Instead, they’ve chosen to let FPL leave us vulnerable to price spikes when investments in solar and energy efficiency are proving to be safer and cheaper in states across the country.”

Floridians made it clear in November that they want more solar by voting down Amendment 1, a failed multi-million dollar attempt by FPL and other Florida utilities to mislead voters and hobble solar growth in the Sunshine State, Sierra Club officials said.

“FPL should take full advantage of our state’s clean energy potential instead of stubbornly building out dirty, unnecessary gas plants and pipelines that increase pollution and electric bills,” Walters said. “Renewable energy technologies are smarter, more cost-effective and safer than fossil fuels. FPL needs to stop propping up its stockholders at the expense of our communities and our natural resources.”





FPL seeks $318 million for Hurricane Matthew costs, storm reserve

FPL storm headquarters in West Palm Beach tracked Hurricane Matthew.
FPL storm headquarters in West Palm Beach tracked Hurricane Matthew.

The biggest chunk of Florida Power & Light Co.’s $811 million rate increase started in January, as the typical customer’s bill rose by $7.21 a month. Now another $3.36 a month increase is expected to show up beginning in March.

That’s because FPL, headquartered in Juno Beach,  is seeking to raise its customers bills to recoup $318.5 million for power restoration and replenishing its storm reserve fund following Hurricane Matthew. The storm grazed Florida’s east coast in October, with gusts exceeding 100 miles an hour in some spots.

The company said in filings with the Florida Public Service Commission that under a 2012 settlement agreement that expired Dec. 31,  it has the right to collect money from customers for hurricane-related costs, including the storm reserve.

If granted, the increase will result in a typical customer bill jumping to $102.77 from $91.56 in December. Those amounts do not include franchise  fees or local taxes, which vary. It’s likely the PSC will take up the issue in February.

Under the 2012 agreement, storm charges cannot exceed $4 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours of usage a month. The Matthew-related fees for FPL’s 4.8 million customer accounts will continue through February 2018.

“Obviously, Hurricane Matthew was a large and powerful storm that affected major portions of our service area and severely damaged the electric grid in some areas, particularly northern and central Florida. It knocked out power to about 1.2 million customers,” FPL spokesman Dave McDermitt said Wednesday.

“Our prompt response, which included approximately 14,600 restoration workers, really was the most effective in FPL history and helped us restore service to 99 percent of our customers within two days following the storm,” McDermitt said.

“We had to replace 250 miles of power lines, 900 transformers and 400 utility poles,” McDermitt said.

AARP and other intervenors fought against FPL’s proposed rate increase of $1.3 billion that the company had sought last year. Ultimately, FPL reached a settlement agreement between FPL and three groups representing customers. That base rate hike includes $400 million this year, $211 million in 2018 and $200 million in 2019.

AARP opposed that settlement, and has expressed concerns about the impact of the bigger bills on fixed-income seniors.

Wednesday,  Jack McRay, AARP Florida Advocacy Manager, said, “AARP Florida is concerned about the impact that this new rate increase would have on Florida residential ratepayers.  Given the new makeup of the Florida Legislature, we are exploring our options for addressing utilities regulation in 2017.”

Storm reserve funds were used to pay for damage from Hurricane Hermine in September, and by the time Matthew hit in early October, the fund was down to $93 million. FPL is allowed to bring it back to $117 million.

FPL has been collecting a storm charge since 2007 to pay for the costs of previous major storms, particularly those in 2004 and 2005, McDermitt said. The last bond payment to finance those repairs is  scheduled for August 2019.

Since 2009, FPL has not been permitted to collect money from customers in advance for future storm costs.

“This allowed base rates to be somewhat lower, but customers will now pay for Hurricane Matthew recovery costs,” McDermitt said.

In the last decade, FPL has spent roughly $2 billion on storm hardening costs, including strengthening 600 main power lines, placing 450 main power lines underground and clearing vegetation from more than 135,000 miles of power lines. In addition, 1.4 million poles have been inspected and upgraded or replaced as needed.

Storm-hardened feeder lines performed more than 30 percent better during Matthew than those that weren’t, McDermitt said. Smart grid technology helped avoid more than 118,000 service interruptions. No hardened distribution feeder pole or transmission structure failed.

Florida’s last major storms until Hermine and Matthew were 11 years ago, but restoration costs were fairly comparable, McDermitt said.

FPL spent more than $906 million on restoration following the 2005 hurricanes, with $721 million due to  Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. That storm left 98 percent of FPL customers without power.

While Florida was spared the worst of Matthew, the damage to FPL’s 35-county territory was substantial.

“The most striking difference was the recovery time,” McDermitt said. We had work crews that started in South Florida and then hopscotched up the coast. It hugged the coast the whole way up.”









Federal Lifeline “Obamaphone” program now offers Internet subsidies


This Cleveland woman’s reference to the Lifeline subsidy program

as the “Obamaphone” received widespread coverage.

Low-income consumers who have been eligible for a monthly discount on landline or wireless phone service can now opt to receive a subsidy for Internet service instead, the Florida Public Service Commission said Tuesday.

The Federal Lifeline Assistance Program has been a voice-only program, but the Federal Communications Commission has expanded it to include high-speed broadband.

The subsidy available in the program sometimes referred to as the “Obamaphone program” remains at one $9.25 per month discount per household.

The program has been fraught with fraud some critics have placed at $500 million a year, and some have called for it to be ended.  Telecom companies have allowed participants to receive more than one subsidy per household if they checked a box indicating they lived in a separate household, even though the addresses were the same, according to published reports.

However, the FCC voted March 31 to expand the subsidy to include Internet access and the changes took effect this month.

The Lifeline program has an annual budget of $2.25 billion and is primarily paid for by a tax on consumers’ phone bills. The Universal Service Fund costs the average U.S. household between $2.88 and $3.52 a month, and $1.75 of that goes to Lifeline.

The FCC’s new new order facilitates market entry for broadband providers and also:

  • Imposes graduated minimum fixed and mobile broadband service standards and minimum mobile voice minute requirements.
  • Establishes a National Lifeline Eligibility Verifier database to determine Lifeline eligibility.

Under the FCC’s new rules, an eligible low-income customer may choose to have his or her Lifeline subsidy applied to voice service or broadband service, if available. The FCC’s policy states that only one Lifeline subsidy may be provided per household, meaning that a customer cannot apply the discount to both a fixed and a wireless service, nor can multiple individuals within a household receive the subsidy.

The Lifeline Program has been streamlined to limit the eligibility criteria to:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance
  • The Veteran’s Pension or Survivor’s Pension benefit
  • Income-based eligibility


Consumers at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines and those who qualified previously through any of the Tribal criteria will continue to be eligible for a Lifeline Program benefit. To see all service offerings, contact your provider of choice that is authorized to provide Lifeline discounts.

For more information about Lifeline, visit the PSC’s website at www.floridapsc.com

AARP, others call for utility regulation reform in wake of FPL rate hike

FPL's Riviera Beach plant is among those fueled by natural gas.
FPL said it needed the rate increase to pay for new natural gas-powered plants such as this one in Riviera Beach.

Since January, thousands of residential Florida Power & Light customers submitted signed petitions and comments and made phone calls to regulators asking them to not allow FPL to raise its rates.

Despite that, the five-member Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approved a settlement deal Tuesday that allows FPL to increase its base rates by $811 million through 2020.

Now some are calling for reform of Florida’s utility regulation system, while others assert that the Office of Public Counsel, which represents all ratepayers, should not have been a party to the settlement.

The PSC approved a settlement agreement announced Oct. 6 by FPL, the Florida Retail Federation, the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association and the OPC.

Not including franchise fees and local taxes, which vary from city to city and can be substantial,   the bill for a customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours a month will jump from $91.56 to $102.97 in 2020.

Following the vote, AARP Florida’s state director Jeff Johnson, said consumers are not being heard, and residential ratepayers need an independent public counsel dedicated to their interests.

AARP’s  Advocacy Manager Jack McRay said the group with 2.8 million members in Florida is “exploring all options” as to what the next step should be.

FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly said Wednesday that FPL’s typical residential customer bill is $40 lower than the national average.

“Our typical business and residential bills are expected to remain lower than they were in 2006 for at least the next four years.  AARP members who are served by FPL are paying less for their electricity than the majority of AARP members who live in other parts of the country and at the same time, our customers have cleaner and more reliable service,” Daly said.

“We invest more than 3.5 billion a year – far more than our earnings – in infrastructure to deliver our customers with top-ranked reliability and bills that are among the lowest in the nation,” Daly said.

State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami,  said the rate increase serves “as further evidence of the need for reform in Florida away from a monopoly system overly controlled by a small handful of giant utilities.”

Florida Public Counsel J.R. Kelly said as for any calls for reform, “That is a decision for the Legislature.  Our office has always strived to provide the best legal representation for all ratepayers of the regulated utilities (electric, water, wastewater and gas), and we will continue to do so.”

Kelly has said the settlement was fair and far less than FPL’s original $1.3 billion request. In addition, among other positives such as more solar power plants, FPL is now required to begin terminating hedging activities for natural gas prices, a practice which has cost all Florida ratepayers more than $6 billion over the last 14 years.

AARP’s Associate Director for Advocacy Zayne Smith said the 6,700 petition signatures and 769 individual comments submitted to the Florida Public Service Commission were the biggest ever response from AARP members in any Florida rate case.

The Sierra Club also encouraged consumers to submit comments throughout the process that began in January and Monday it submitted 5,768 comments in bulk. Many of them explained the hardship posed by any rate increase and argued that there isn’t a need for more gas-burning power plants.

The other six parties who participated in the rate case, including AARP and the Sierra Club, did not sign on to the agreement.

Nathan Skop, a former PSC commissioner who represented Alexandria and Daniel Larson of Loxahatchee in the rate case, said Wednesday that by agreeing to the settlement, the Office of Public Counsel compromised its position to “advocate on behalf of Florida ratepayers.”

“The Larsons believe that the Office of Public Counsel should not have been a signatory to this terrible settlement which completely contradicts what OPC argued at hearing,” Skop said.

OPC originally said FPL’s rates should be reduced by more than $800 million, but later revised that and said the reduction should be more than $300 million.

“Had OPC not agreed to the settlement and remained neutral, it would have sent a clear message that the settlement was not in the public interest and forced the Commission to approve the settlement or decide the FPL rate case.  OPC agreeing to the settlement gave the Commission the pretext to approve the settlement and issue gushing praise on what a great deal it is.  Clearly this is not the case.  A comparison to the 2010 settlement clearly illustrates how bad a deal the current settlement really is,” Skop said.

In 2010, FPL received a $75.5 million increase after regulators slashed its $1.2 billion request.

In 2013, a $350 million, or 8 percent base rate increase, took effect after FPL reached a settlement with large power users in late 2012, and the PSC also granted FPL another $620 million rate increase for new power plants. OPC was  left out of the 2012 settlement, the first time that ever occurred. OPC said the settlement was invalid without its signature. Kelly  took the issue to the Florida Supreme Court, but ultimately lost.


Loxahatchee residents oppose FPL settlement deal, say it’s a windfall

Parties to FPL's settlement assert they could not notify others involved in the case due to Hurricane Matthew.
The hurricane’s fault? Parties to FPL’s settlement assert they could not notify others involved in the case due to Hurricane Matthew.

A Loxahatchee couple who intervened in Florida Power & Light Co.’s rate case has now taken a stance opposing a proposed settlement deal  that would give FPL an $811 million rate increase through 2020.

“Their profit is $1.6 billion, and now ratepayers will be paying more. When does the gluttony end?”  Alexandria Larson, who along with her husband Daniel intervened in the rate case, said Wednesday.

FPL filed a petition with the Florida Public Service Commission in January seeking a $1.3 billion rate increase. That case was heard before the PSC for nine days ending Sept. 1. Last week FPL and three intervenors announced they had reached a settlement that if approved by the PSC, would give FPL an $811 million.

Click here to read more about the settlement.

Nathan Skop, a former PSC commissioner who represents the Larsons, said the proposed settlement represents a financial windfall to FPL to the detriment of residential customers. If approved, it would be the largest base rate increase in decades.

The Office of Public Counsel, the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association and the Florida Retail Federation signed on to the agreement with FPL. The other six intervenors in the case did not sign the deal, and it’s not known how many will object to it.

In a motion seeking approval of the agreement filed Oct. 6, attorneys for FPL, OPC, the FRF and the SFHHA state, “Due to the conditions surrounding Hurricane Matthew, the signatories were unable to reach other parties to this proceeding to determine their positions at the time of this filing. The signatories will endeavor to do so as soon as practicable after Hurricane Matthew and will file an updated certificate of conferral with the Commission.”

Skop called the assertion that there wasn’t enough time to consult the parties prior to the hurricane is
“completely disengenuous,” because according to published reports, OPC had the settlement a week before it was filed Oct. 6.

Florida Public Counsel J.R. Kelly said Wednesday while it’s true the terms had been conceptually  agreed to, the settlement was not finalized in writing by the parties and signed until Oct. 6.

AARP officials said Tuesday they and their regulated utility experts are reviewing and analyzing the settlement.

The PSC can approve the settlement without the other intervenors’ okay.

Nathan Skop, a former PSC commissioner who represents the Larsons, said the proposed settlement represents a financial windfall to FPL to the detriment of residential customers.

Skop said the Larsons were not given the opportunity to meaningfully participate in the settlement discussions.

“The Larsons believe that OPC sold out residential ratepayers and should not have agreed to this settlement,” Skop said.

Kelly said Tuesday that the settlement is a fair deal for everybody.

The PSC has to either vote against the agreement, or approve it, but cannot modify it, the filing states.

Kelly said the other intervenors have not notified him about their positions.  There will be a  hearing where all the parties will have an opportunity to oppose or take no position, make  comments and present witnesses.

A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 27.








FPL has completed three new power plants, won’t need another until 2024

FPL commissioned its new Riviera Beach plant in 2014. Staff photo by Richard Graulich
FPL commissioned its new Riviera Beach plant in 2014.
Staff photo by Richard Graulich

Since 2013 Florida Power & Light Co. has built new combined-cycle gas-fired power plants at Cape Canaveral, Riviera Beach and Port Everglades at roughly $1 billion apiece,  and a similar plant in Okeechobee is slated to go into service in 2019.

The company won’t need another major new power plant until 2024, and that will also be a combined-cycle plant that uses natural gas to produce power,   FPL’s Steven Sim, senior manager of resource assessment & planning, told regulators Wednesday.

FPL also plans to add 300 megawatts of utility-scale solar power to its fleet by 2021. Locations for both the new solar and new natural gas plants have not been determined, Sim said.

Wednesday, Juno Beach-based FPL and the state’s other investor-owned utilities, Duke Energy Florida, Gulf Power and Tampa Electric Co., gave the Florida Public Service Commission an overview of their plans through 2025.

FPL, with 4.8 million residential and commercial accounts, projects it will have approximately 5.5 million accounts by 2025. The state’s population is forecast to grow by 3 million people to 23 million by then, FPL stated in a report filed with the PSC.

Statewide, natural gas, which is a fossil fuel,  is projected to remain steady as the fuel for  65 percent of electricity generation over the next 10  years, and renewable energy, such as solar and wind, will grow to 2 percent , said Stacy Dochoda, president and CEO of the Florida Reliability Coordinating Council.

FPL’s use of natural gas to power its plants is slightly higher at 68 percent this year. It’s projected to hit 70 percent in 2017, and remain close to that through 2025.

Combined-cycle plants, which produce energy by combustion of natural gas in a turbine and by using the turbine’s exhaust to make steam, and solar photovoltaic plants are viewed as the two most cost-effective options, Sim said.

“The more we study PV, the more we become convinced it is becoming increasingly competitive,” Sim said.

The cost of PV modules — a packaged, connected assembly of solar cells — is projected to continue to decline.

FPL is adding three new PV facilities of approximately 74.5 megawatts each this year.  As a result, FPL’s solar generation capacity will triple to 333 megawatts from 110 megawatts.

Federal and state energy efficiency, as well as savings from the use of compact fluorescent  bulbs and LEDs, are also impacting FPL’s forecasted future demand and energy requirements. By 2025 FPL’s forecasted summer peak load is projected to be reduced by more than 1,800 megawatts and its annual energy consumption by more than 8,700 gigawatt hours, FPL said in its report.



Loxahatchee couple granted intervenor status in FPL rate case

PSC Commissioner Lisa Edgar has ruled that Alexandria and Daniel Larson may intervene in FPL's rate case.
PSC Commissioner Lisa Edgar has ruled that Alexandria and Daniel Larson may intervene in FPL’s rate case.

Daniel and Alexandria Larson, a  Loxahatchee couple  Florida Power & Light Co. had sought to ban from fully participating in its upcoming rate case has been granted intervenor status.

Florida Public Service Commissioner Lisa Edgar, who is the prehearing officer for FPL’s proposed $1.34 billion rate increase request, issued the order Tuesday.

The PSC is scheduled to hold hearings in Tallahassee for two weeks starting Aug. 22. Intervenors have the right to call and cross-examine witnesses and more in the case that will be run similarly to a trial.

Edgar wrote in the order that the Larsons meet the two-prong standing test established in a 1981 case. They are customers of FPL, and they will be substantially affected by the proceeding.

“Additionally, this Commission has a long history of granting intervention to residential customers of utilities subject to its regulation,” Edgar wrote.

FPL attorney John Butler objected to the Larsons intervening in the case because he said,  they alleged no substantial interests that are unique or are not being addressed by other intervenors.

The Office of Public Counsel, which represents all ratepayers, AARP, the Federal Executive Agencies and the Florida Industrial Power Users Group have also intervened and addressed the same issues as the Larsons, Butler wrote.

Edgar stated she does not find it necessary for the Larsons to specifically allege which of their specific interests OPC may or may not represent.

“I’m happy they granted intervention,” said Nathan Skop, a former PSC commissioner who is  the Larson’s attorney.

In 2012 FPL lost a similar effort to keep the Larsons from participating as intervenors in that rate case.

FPL spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood said the company has no further comment and does not plan to appeal the order.