State regulators are poised to decide whether to approve a controversial $1.8 billion proposal that would lead to Florida Power & Light adding 20 solar-power plants over two years.
The Florida Public Service Commission will take up the issue next week after its staff issued a 46-page recommendation calling for rejection of FPL’s plan for the “SolarTogether” program. The proposal has drawn opposition from the state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers in utility issues, while receiving support from a variety of backers such as Walmart, the Miami-Dade County Commission, the Broward County Commission and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
The controversy centers primarily on the way the program is structured and its different effects on FPL customers.
Under the program, customers would be able to voluntarily pay more on their electric bills to finance the projects and would receive credits that would result in them getting a “payback” in about seven years.
FPL contends that the program would respond to customers who want to help boost renewable energy and might not want to have rooftop solar panels.
“A growing number of FPL’s 5 million customers want to make a tangible difference in the world by sourcing their power consumption from renewable sources while also participating in solar’s increasingly favorable economics,” the utility said in a brief filed last month. “SolarTogether makes that possible. By making relatively modest monthly payments, participants may subscribe to blocks of capacity generated by the program-dedicated, cost-effective solar facilities, and they can claim the associated environmental attributes.”
But commission staff members and the Office of Public Counsel contend the program would have costs and financial risks for the vast majority of customers who would not participate. As an example, credits received by SolarTogether participants would come from money that all customers pay to cover power-plant fuel expenses. Initial participants in the program also would include commercial, industrial and government customers.
The commission staff recommendation, issued Friday, said the proposal would “authorize FPL to accelerate the construction of solar facilities and to add future solar facilities based upon the utility’s marketing efforts and the desires of a select group of customers rather than adding generating units to satisfy projected reliability or economic needs for all customers.”
FPL and other utilities have moved quickly in recent years to build solar plants across the state, as renewable-energy technology has advanced and become more cost-effective. But the structure of the SolarTogether proposal and its financing differ from the other projects.
Utilities, for example, have included terms in base-rate settlements that have allowed them to collect additional money from customers to pay for solar projects. The commission has routinely signed off on such projects.
The commission, which is scheduled to decide on SolarTogether during a March 3 meeting, held a two-day hearing on the proposal in January.
The 20 solar plants would be built over two years, with each having a 74.5-megawatt capacity. FPL says, in part, that all customers would see long-term savings from the plan because the solar plants would take the place of other types of more costly electric generation. The company estimates that $112 million of those savings would go to the general body of customers.
“(The Office of Public Counsel’s) claim that the program is discriminatory, involuntary and subsidized ignores the program’s fundamental features. … FPL projects that the SolarTogether program is projected to be cost-effective at a reasonable cost and provide net benefits in the form of cost savings for the general body of customers, including participants and non-participants, i.e., all FPL customers,” the utility said in its brief last month.
But the Office of Public Counsel blasted the proposal in a brief, arguing that customers not participating in the program might not see a net financial benefit for 26 years.
“To be clear, citizens are in favor of solar and bona fide plans to improve Florida’s environmental condition; however, citizens do not favor forcing the vast majority of customers to fund vanity projects and take on all risks of those projects which primarily benefit only a few participants,” the Office of Public Counsel argued.
–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida
@At least ask yourself some questions
Why is it still called Florida – P&L?
Do you smell a monopoly?
When – NOT IF – the next “natural disaster” (because, you know, God has passed sentence, or whatever) blows, burns (hell, this is Florida) swallows the shiny SolarTogether with everyone and everything else – what then? Who will help? Who will pay? Mexico, God, et. al., will be quick to tell you – it ain’t me man.
FPL has been gouging it’s customers for years. Poor service, frequent power outages and high rates is a standard below what we should be willing to accept. Hopefully the development of cold fusion will cut rates by 1,000% and put and end to socialism for guaranteed profit power moguls like FPL.
Land of no turn signals says says
Couldn’t they use all the money that they have been collecting for the “fuel surcharge”on our bills for many years even after the price of oil has dropped for a long time now?
We should have all invested in solar long ago… by putting a few panels on our roofs. We would be getting our OWN dividend by now on that investment. And best of all, we would be less dependent on FPL or whom ever. Now these folks want us to pay for their centralized control of electricity… good luck folks. The party is over.
And I’d like to add that they also shifted the high voltage line maintenance costs to the home owner in recent years… if we’re to be responsible for that, then why not maintain my own off grid panels as well.
Do you have any idea of the chemicals, Petro chems, and heavy metals used in production of solar panels. And when their lifespan is over, about seven years on average, what do you think happens to those panels. And please tell me thisnew manufacturing process that uses no fossil fuels. I would like to know as that would equate to a second industrial revolution. Without fossil fuels, you got nothing but pipe dreams.
Trying to sneak in more corporate welfare. @James spits the truth… days are numbered for the monopolistic utility corps.
If we all just sat back, said no, I assure you FPL will build the solar plants anyways. Because as of now, its cheaper than slinging around fossil fuels and building nuclear plants.
Why should we be forced to pay for a proven constant dependable power producing FAILURE.
Do not build ANY solar power plants.