FP&L gets pushback for planned power plant

Feb 20, 2012

Florida Power and Light officials say a new 1,277 megawatt power plant at Port Everglades in Broward County will save customers money and be better for the environment, but Regan McCarthy reports some argue the company is paying more attention to the needs of Wall Street than to rate payers.

Florida Power and Light Representative John Butler says replacing the outdated electric generating units at Port Everglades in Broward County with a new natural-gas power plant to the tune of  about 1.2 billion dollars, would be better for the environment and save customers money. For example, Butler says replacing four 1960s era oil and gas fired steam units with a combined cycle unit will lower emissions.

“Peec is projected to avoid FPL system air remissions of 22-million tons of carbon dioxide, 40,000 thouand tons of sulfur dioxide, and 33,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, again over 30 years and compared to the existing Everglades units. This is a benefit not only to FPL and its customers in the form of lower emission costs, but to the state of Florida as a whole in the form of cleaner air.”

Butler says the Port Everglades Next Generation Clean Energy Center, also called PEEC plan, which is projected to be completed in 2016, would reduce dependency on oil

“FPL’s evaluation shows that building Peec is projected to reduce oil consumption by 10.4 million barrels and natural gas consumption by 90 million MMBTUs over 30 years, compared to returning the existing Everglades units to service. In other words, although Peec is gas fired, building it and operating it instead of continuing to rely on FPL’s older and less efficient units will actually reduce the amount of gas needed to meet customer’s energy needs.”

And Butler says building the plant would create 650 jobs.

Jon Moyle is a spokesman for Florida Industrial Power Users Group. Moyle says moving forward with the plan is not in the best interest of the customers.

“Really, at the end of the day, who need this plan. We believe it’s not FPL’s consumers, its about FPL’s shareholders that need this plan. It’s about being able to meet earning on Wall Street.”

Moyle proposes that instead of building a new plant, Florida Power and light should make more of an effort to look into buying energy from a third party, but Moyal says there’s no incentive for FPL to do so.

“The utilities earn a return on their purchased capital. They don’t earn a return on purchased power agreements. They don’t earn a return on fuel.”

And Moyle adds the plant would not diversify the state’s energy portfolio or help to encourage the use of renewable energy.

“Florida Power and Light is very long, very heavy in Natural Gas. There’s lots of discussions about how do we get weened from natural gas. And in response to that they’re asking you for a need determination for another thousand megawatts for natural gas.”

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are considering a move that would streamline such projects. Right now, customers pay for new power plants through base rates after the plants are up and running. But an amendment put forward by Senator Bill Montford would let power companies recoup the cost of building a power plant by increasing rates without having a rate hearing as long as they stay within the projected cost for construction that the PSC okayed during a “need determination” hearing like the FPL has just had. Montford withdrew the amendment during a Senate Agriculture committee meeting.

“This is a very complicated issue, it’s one that could have a financial impact on businesses and most importantly families and again I just thought it was too quick notice for my part to move forward, and something of this significance that could have a far reaching impact I thought it was just best to slow down and let’s give everybody a chance to talk about it.”

Some say they wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar amendment come up again. The Public Service Commission will consider the arguments before making a final ruling. A decision is not expected until later next month.