FPL files four-year rate proposal enabling 894MW of solar development

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Florida Power & Light is currently building a 409MW battery as part of its clean energy transition. Credit: FPL

US utility Florida Power & Light (FPL) has filed a four-year rate plan that could see 894MW of solar PV systems added to the grid.

FPL’s proposal calls for a US$1.1 billion electricity base-rate revenues increase in 2022 and US$607 million in 2023. It has also submitted a request for a US$140 million base-rate increase in both 2024 and 2025 to support investment in new solar energy projects.

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The rate hike, FPL said, would support “a more resilient and sustainable energy future for Florida in the face of climate change and frequently severe weather”. It added that the combined US$280 million cost of the Solar Base Rate Adjustment (SoBRA) would be “partially offset” by lowered fuel costs on the clause portion of customer bills.

The utility’s four-year rate plan sits alongside a pledge to install 30 million solar panels in Florida by 2030, which it claims would make FPL the largest utility owner and operator of solar in the US.

It is also building what it claims will be the “world’s largest” integrated solar-powered battery energy storage system. FPL first revealed plans for the Manatee Energy Storage Center in March 2019, which it said would stand at 409MW capacity, powered by an existing PV plant in Parrish, Manatee County, and be able to distribute 900MWh of electricity.

FPL is also in the process of completing its culminative 1.49GW community solar project, which the utility expects to generate roughly US$112 million in customer savings during its lifetime. The capacity, spread across five clusters of 20 plants, is expected to be commissioned by mid-2021.

The utility estimates that average residential customers’ bills would rise 3.4% annually from January 2021 to 2025, while commercial bills are expected to grow at an average annual rate of about 3.9% to 4.4% during the same period. In 2024 and 2025, the solar base rate adjustment would add roughly US$2 per month and US$1.50 per month to residential customers’ bills respectively.

In addition, the proposal would continue FPL’s merger with Northwest Florida utility Gulf Power, which includes establishing a new transmission line physically connecting both utility systems and the ability to dispatch from a common fleet of power generation systems. Both utilities have offered different rates in the past, so the proposal would mitigate this through a “transition rider” credit mechanism that would require energy customers in the northwest of the state to pay more on their electricity bills than other FPL customers. However, the company said that rates would be fully aligned by January 2027. The Public Service Commission is expected to make a decision on the proposal by 12 November 2021.

Eric Silagy, president and chief executive of FPL, said that “there is never a good time to request a rate increase and we remain steadfastly committed to providing customers unparalleled value while building an energy future they can depend on.”

FPL, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, is aiming to have around 10GW of solar capacity on its system by 2030, and placed more than 1.1GW of solar in service last year. The parent company itself has pledged to deploy up to 14.4GW of solar capacity by 2024.

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