The Sunshine State is starting to live up to its name—or at least taking advantage of its moniker’s resource. Under a new rate approval, Florida utility Florida Power & Light (FPL) will install 1.2 gigawatts of solar power over the next four years.
The rate settlement agreement was developed by FPL, the state's Office of Public Counsel and consumer advocates, according to FPL. Under the agreement, the utility will continue to invest roughly $3.5 billion a year in infrastructure as it has in recent years.
"The agreement benefits all of our customers by ensuring rates continue to remain low for at least the next four years while also enabling continued smart investments in reliability and clean energy," said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy.
Under the agreement, FPL can add up to 300 megawatts of new solar capacity annually for four years and will adjust its base rates. The solar projects must be considered cost-effective so the solar projects produce a net savings for customers over their operating lifetime. It also will encourage a 50-megawatt pilot program to expand on FPL's battery storage initiatives in conjunction with solar projects.
However, included in the rate change is a $811 million hike in fees for customers. Those hikes will largely come from factors other than solar power. FPL said the solar installations will impact the average customer’s bill by less than 50 cents a month. The hike is less than the original $1.3 billion that FPL wanted to levy but it still has its critics.
Ahead of the vote the Florida chapter of The Sierra Club criticized the proposal. “FPL has pivoted to the Florida Public Service Commission with a request for customers to fund more than one billion dollars’ worth of new and expanded power plants that burn fracked gas from as far away as Pennsylvania and Texas,” the chapter’s Frank Jackalone.
The agreement will allow the utility to upgrade 26 natural gas power plants. “These power plants are unnecessary, as FPL has admitted homegrown solar and batteries could do at least as good a job of powering Floridian homes and businesses—at competitive prices,” Jackalone added. “To make matters worse, FPL is also using these power plants to try to justify building unnecessary gas pipelines, such as Sabal Trail and Atlantic Sunrise."
The utility also backed the controversial Amendment 1, which would have made installing home solar more difficult in the state. The Sierra Club has also charged that if FPL stopped fighting the expansion of rooftop solar it could save money and FPL reduce its dependence on fossil fuel-based generation.Tweet