Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) today announced the next major planned investment in its ongoing effort to modernize its fleet of power plants. As several older, less-efficient generating units are phased out, the company plans to add a new, high-efficiency energy center that would begin generating cleaner, more-efficient electricity in 2019 to meet the needs of Florida's growing population and economy while helping reduce emissions and keep customer rates and bills low.
The addition of a new combined-cycle power plant fueled by clean, U.S.-produced natural gas is the best, most economical option to meet anticipated customer needs beginning in 2019, according to the company's extensive analysis. If approved by regulators, the new plant would be built on company-owned property in northeastern Okeechobee County, Fla., and enter service by mid-2019. The facility would complement other major system improvements, including the three new large-scale solar power plants that FPL is building before the end of 2016.
"We're building on our successful strategy of phasing out older, inefficient facilities and replacing them with advanced, high-efficiency clean-energy technology in a way that ensures we can meet the growing energy needs of Floridians while keeping their electric rates low," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "The strategy is working: our system is among the cleanest and most fuel-efficient in the U.S., and our typical customer bills are about 30 percent lower than the national average."
"While the cost of most goods and services has increased in recent years, we have been able to reduce the cost of electricity for our customers. Essentials like housing – up 20 percent – to healthcare – up 35 percent – keep rising, but FPL's typical customer bill is 10 percent lower than it was nearly a decade ago," Silagy added.
Investments in high-efficiency, natural gas energy centers since 2001 have enabled FPL to cut its use of foreign oil by more than 99 percent – from more than 40 million barrels to less than 1 million barrels annually today. Since 2001, the effectiveness of these investments has saved FPL customers more than $7.5 billion on fuel costs and prevented more than 85 million tons of carbon emissions.
"U.S.-produced natural gas is critical to keeping our customers free from past dependence on foreign oil," said Silagy. "By using clean natural gas along with cost-effective energy efficiency programs and zero-emissions nuclear and solar power, we can continue to reliably deliver affordable clean energy for our customers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, now and in the future."
FPL operates a diverse portfolio of energy sources, including solar, nuclear and natural gas, to power the state's growing population and economy. The company currently serves approximately 4.8 million customer accounts in Florida, a number expected to increase to 5 million accounts serving more than 10 million people by 2019. As part of its ten-year forecast of future energy requirements filed with the Florida Public Service Commission in March 2015, FPL projected a significant need for additional firm power generation beginning in 2019 – and more in the years that follow. Firm power capability – the backbone of a reliable electric system – means that electricity is available to a utility's customers at any time of day or night.
The company's forecast takes into account substantial energy conservation and the addition of three new large-scale solar plants that FPL expects to complete in 2016. It also includes the FPL Port Everglades Next Generation Clean Energy Center, the company's most recent natural gas power plant modernization project, which continues to progress on budget and on schedule to enter service in mid-2016. FPL previously completed similar major modernizations, building high-efficiency, natural gas-fueled clean energy centers at Cape Canaveral and Riviera Beach in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Both projects were completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
FPL also continues to retire older, inefficient power plants. In December 2014, the company retired its 500-megawatt facility in Putnam County, a gas- and oil-fueled generating plant that served FPL customers well for many decades. The timing of the plant's retirement enabled cost savings for customers as FPL's modernized system is generating cleaner, more fuel-efficient electricity than ever before. Also last year, the company retired a 400-megawatt, 1960s-era, gas- and oil-fueled unit in Miami-Dade County from regular generating service, converting it to operate in synchronous condenser mode to provide voltage support for the power transmission system in southeastern Florida. A second similar unit is scheduled to be converted in 2017.
Two significant long-term agreements to purchase power from older natural gas and coal units, totaling more than 1,300 megawatts of capacity, are expected to expire before mid-2019. In addition, FPL recently announced its plan to acquire the 250-megawatt, coal-fueled Cedar Bay Generating Plant in Jacksonville, Fla., which it has had under a long-term contract to purchase power since 1988. After completing the purchase, FPL plans to immediately terminate the unfavorable contract, which is currently costing customers more than the value of the power it produces, and reduce the plant's operations by 90 percent. Based on the company's current analysis of operational needs, it expects to permanently shutter the plant within the next two to three years. This plan alone is projected to save FPL customers an estimated $70 million and prevent nearly 1 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.