June 03, 2014

Florida's dependence on natural gas will ease impact of new EPA rules

Florida’s heavy reliance on natural gas could make cutting carbon pollution under an ambitious plan unveiled Monday by the Obama administration easier to swallow.

The complex rule, touted as the strongest federal effort yet to combat climate change by regulating power plant carbon emissions for the first time, calls for reducing emissions nationally by 30 percent by 2030. The rule covers all fossil fuel-powered plants, which generate about 6 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gases, but chiefly targets the nation’s biggest polluters: coal-fired power plants.

Florida, which gets about 68 percent of its power from plants running on natural gas, would have to reduce emissions by 38 percent, according to calculations by the Environmental Protection Agency.

While the proposed rule has been generally praised by environmentalists, some Florida and national industry groups argue it will drive up fuel and consumer costs. More here by Jenny Staletovich.

 

April 01, 2014

Public Service Commission ousts another veteran staffer for 'personnel' reasons

UPDATE with Baez comment: Months after Commissioner Art Graham was named chairman of the Public Service Commission for the second time, the director of the Public Service Commission has asked for and received the resignation of one of the agency's highest ranking and longest-serving staff members, Marshall Willis.

"As you requested during our meeting this afternoon, I am hereby submitting my resignation effective April 30, 2014,'' Willis wrote in a letter last Friday to the PSC executive director, Braulio Baez, who reports to Graham and the five-member board.

"I do not fully understand the why's but I do understand that I serve at your pleasure and you have the right to do what you are doing. I have really enjoyed working at the psc, it has been like a family to me. lt is disheartening, to say the least to be asked to do this, by the very organization that I have given my all to over all these years."

Willis was director of the Division of Accounting and Finance, was known as among the hardest working on the staff, and served the commission for more than 25 years. He was reportedly two years way from his retirement under the accelerated retirement program known as DROP. 

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March 30, 2014

Report: Political investment by energy companies helps them buy into legis agenda

Update: Here's the report

To understand the influence of Florida’s largest electric companies in Tallahassee, look no further than your monthly bill.

You won’t see a line item for the “nuclear cost recovery fee” that Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy collect each month for future construction of new nuclear power plants. That’s because legislators last year voted down an amendment that would have required them to disclose the fee to customers, something they knew the two companies didn’t want to do.

Lawmakers allowed utilities to collect the fee in 2006, and when the companies tamped down their plans to build new facilities and used the money for other needs, such as upgrading existing nuclear plants, legislators kept the fee in place despite complaints from consumer advocates.

The legislative journey of the nuclear cost recovery fee is but one example of how Florida’s power companies control the legislative agenda in Tallahassee, according to a new report by Integrity Florida, a non-profit Tallahassee-based research and watchdog group. They say millions of dollars in campaign contributions and an army of lobbyists help keep corporate interests ahead of the public interest, and are calling on lawmakers to make the power companies more transparent and more accountable. 

“Our state’s monopoly power corporations have demonstrated how politically influential investments can be profitable,’’ said Dan Krassner, president of Integrity Florida and one of the authors of the report, Power Play: Political Influence of Florida’s Top Energy Corporations. “The volume of spending on campaigns and lobbying give this industry an outsized influence.”

The report was paid for with a grant from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), an advocacy group that wants Florida to adopt more electricity options. An advanced copy of the report, to be released Monday, was made available to the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times.

The utilities vigorously reject the allegations, calling SACE an “anti-utility organization.” Story here. 

March 10, 2014

Group asks feds to block FPL's nuke plant from starting without repairs

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy filed a petition Monday to block a St. Lucie nuclear reactor from returning to service until the public vets unusual wear inside the plant's steam generators.

In a complaint to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Southern Alliance accused the NRC of allowing unit two of the St. Lucie nuclear complex to operate outside of its license.

The Southern Alliance argued that plant owner Florida Power & Light omitted components without formal NRC approval, contributing to premature steam generator tube wear.

"We are troubled that the NRC is allowing FPL to operate unit two essentially in an experimental state due to the significant modifications that have occurred with the steam generator replacements," said Stephen Smith, Southern Alliance's executive director.

Michael Waldron, an FPL spokesman, dismissed the group's claims as just part of an "antinuclear" agenda.

"This petition is not about the safety of St. Lucie," he said. "It's a transparent attempt by an out-of-state, antinuclear group to advance a political agenda."

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December 17, 2013

PSC agrees to postpone FPL request for $822 million project to fix polluting plants

The Florida Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved without comment a request by Florida Power & Light to dismiss its $822 million request to rebuild 48 gas turbine plants at locations in Broward and Lee counties while it conducts environmental tests.

But FPL got a sense of the intensity of the opposition to the plan when two attorneys, representing the public and the state's largest utility users, sent a warning shot with a rare statement on the record.

FPL is proposing the project because it believes it must replace 48 small 1970s-era power plants to comply with new federal air emission standards. More here. 

But FPL wants to pay for the new plants in an unconventional way: as a fee tacked onto customer bills under the environmental cost recovery clause, intended for costs associated with complying with environmental laws.

Charles Rehwinkel, lawyer with the Office of Public Counsel, which represents the public in utility cases, said his office vigorously opposes using the environmental fee to charge customers for new power plants. He argued the issue is better addressed in a full rate case.

Rehwinkel quoted from the records from 1994 legislative session, when the sponsor of the amendment who passed the law to create the environmental clause said it “was to be interpretted in the most restrictive fashion by the Public Service Commission” and was “not to authorize recovery of new power plant construction costs.”

The provision passed 106-0 in the House and was sent to the Senate and became law that year.

John Butler, attorney for FPL, said Rehwinkel's reading of legislative history "is selective" and "if we proceed down a similar path we will be asking for ECRC recovery."

Jon Moyle, attorney for the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, who represents some of the largest eleectricity users in the state, said if the PSC allows FPL to bring the issue back it should be considered a separate rate increase and undergo the scrutiny of a rate request, instead of the lower level of scrutiny allowed when it is attached to an environmental clause.

 


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/16/3822519/fpl-proposes-charging-customers.html#storylink=cpy

December 16, 2013

FPL wants customers to pay for new plants under emissions law

Fpl plantWhen the federal government issued new air quality guidelines in 2010 to protect the elderly, children, and people with asthma from nitrogen oxide emissions, Florida Power & Light took notice.

The 48 gas turbines that the company uses to fire up quickly during peak demand rely on 1970s-era technology. Although the company touts a record of having power plants that are “67 percent cleaner than the national average,” it also acknowledges that these older so-called “peaker” plants emit some of the most toxic pollutants.

In order to comply with the new standard, FPL decided it was time to replace all of its peak demand turbines between now and 2016 and, in June, it proposed a $822 million project. The costs would be borne by customers based on a monthly fee – FPL estimates it is less than 75-cents a month for customers that use 1,000 kilowatt hours – and added to the portion of the bill used to comply with environmental regulations.

The proposal would allow the company to replace aging generators in Broward and Lee counties, avoid a lengthy rate review by utility regulators, update its emissions technology and still give the company a revenue boost that would allow it to increase its profits.

But not everyone agrees with FPL that this was the right approach and, on Tuesday, FPL will ask the Public Service Commission to dismiss its proposal while it conducts a series of environmental tests. The goal, the company said, is to come back and ask for the rate increase again, once the tests are complete.

“It could be the same project; it could be a different project,’’ said Mark Bubriski, Florida Power & Light spokesman. More here. 

Photo: Walter Michot, Miami Herald

December 03, 2013

PolitiFact looks at Charlie Crist's solar energy claim

In his election bid, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist is making an issue of renewable energy. He touted alternative energy as a way to attract new industries and new jobs to Florida on the Nov. 18, 2013, edition of MSNBC’sThe Ed Show.

"We’re the Sunshine State, and we’re hardly doing any solar energy production," Crist told host Ed Schultz. "We should be the global leader in solar energy."

Crist later told PolitiFact that Florida Power & Light has a "pretty significant solar field," but added that "we can be doing so much more, in my humble opinion. ... My understanding is that many other states encourage the use of solar energy much more than Florida" does.

PolitiFact looks at Crist’s claim to see if he's right about Florida's solar energy production. 

 

 

State regulators approve raising electric bills for FPL consumers next year

Florida’s Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved a $4.90 monthly increase for Florida Power & Light's residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours starting in January, bringing the total bill to $100.01.

The additional fees includes a $1.14 increase to FPL’s base rates for the completed upgrades to its nuclear power plant at Turkey Point 4. A year ago, the PSC approved a $350 million increase in base rates for FPL that took effect in January and allowed the company to raise rates again when three new power plants start operating.

The rate increase was based on a settlement between FPL and some of the state's largest commercial power users, did not include the Office of Public Counsel which represents the public on utility issues. The public counsel has since sued, asking the Florida Supreme Court to reject the settlement as unconstitutional. The case is still pending. 

The other increases approved by the PSC on Tuesday allow FPL to recover its costs for fuel and purchased power, nuclear development, conservation and taxes. State law allows utilities to pass along these costs to customers, with the approval of the PSC.

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October 01, 2013

PSC approves FPL's nuke fee request in record time

In record time on Tuesday, the Florida Public Service Commission approved charging Florida Power & Light  customers $43.5 million in 2014 for nuclear-power projects.

The fee will amount to 43 cents per 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, a drop of $1.19 from the current charge. It will be the seventh year the company has been able to use a law intended to help the company invest in the costly endeavor of building future nuclear power plants by collecting the money from customers to pay for upgrades to its existing plants.

The fees approved by the commission on Tuesday would allow FPL to put only $17 million into the cost of obtaining a license for two new reactors at the company's Turkey Point power plant complex in Miami-Dade County. The remaining estimated $26 million will be spent on upgrading existing projects.

Before legislators approved the so-called "advanced nuclear cost recovery" provision, utility companies were required to make the improvements and then seek permission from regulators to charge customers for it after the fact. By collecting the money in advance, regulators said Tuesday they believe FPL is operating efficiently. 

The PSC released this press release:

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September 20, 2013

Scott reappoints Brisé and Graham to PSC

Gov. Rick Scott  has kept intact the Public Service Commission that he inherited from his predecessor, former Gov. Charlie Crist, and on Friday reappointed Art Graham and Ron Brisé to another four-year term rather than choose newcomers offered up to him by the legislatively-controlled nominating commission.

Graham, 49, of Jacksonville Beach, previously served as a city councilman for the City of Jacksonville Beach. Brisé, 39, is a former state legislator from Miami and the current chair of the Florida Public Service Commission. He currently serves as a board member of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. 

Graham and Brisé were chosen by Crist from a list of nominees to replace one of two Crist appointees that failed to receive Senate confirmation after they rejected a controversial rate increase sought by Florida Power & Light. Scott reaffirmed their appointments and the Senate confirmed them.

Since then, both Graham and Brisé have joined with the rest of the PSC to unanimously approve a four-year settlement that allows FPL to raise its rates in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

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