Florida Power and Light is the state's largest utility serving roughly 4.6 million customers.
Since 2006, FPL customers have been paying what's called a "Nuclear Cost Recovery Fee," which enables the utility to charge in advance for future costs of building and improving nuclear power plants.
Since then, about $320 million has been raised to add 525 megawatts of new power to Turkey Point in South Miami-Dade.
The law was designed to speed up the construction of new nuclear power plants.
Some lawmakers in Tallahassee say the fee is unneeded and unfair, and they want to change the state law to eliminate it.
Even Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who supported the recovery fee when it passed the Florida Legislature seven years ago, is now having second thoughts. "Everybody thought this was a brilliant idea, including environmental groups" Weatherford told the Tampa Bay Times. "I think we've all woken up and realized mistakes were made."
FPL’s president Eric Silagy argues the advance fee will actually benefit its customers in the long run.
“The advance cost recovery legislation has worked beautifully. It’s been a real success story,” he said this week during a visit to the WLRN studios at the Miami Herald.
Silagy claims the money raised from the fees has been responsible for projects that created about 10,000 jobs at the Turkey Point and St. Lucie County plants, and claims they’ve added $683-million to the local economy.
In a wide-ranging interview, Silagy also discussed the utility’s shift from oil to natural gas sources and its efforts to modernize with wind and solar. “We’ve deployed more solar in Florida than any other company,” he said.
But he admitted that renewable sources are simply not efficient enough yet to replace traditional energy sources. “I’m not here to tell you that it is a silver bullet to fix all the energy needs in the country. It has its place in producing energy.”
Silagy hinted they would need more financial help from lawmakers in Tallahassee to look further into wind and solar resources.
FPL’s top executive was also queried on the utility’s plans for climate change.
Sea-level rise has been top-of-mind since Superstorm Sandy and ensuing high tides ravaged the coastline last fall. Some insurance maps show the Turkey Point Nuclear Power plant surrounded by water by the end of the century.
Are they ready for the landscape of the future? Silagy says yes.
“We have engineered and designed those facilities with the idea of maintaining and operating them for decades to come,” he said.
He adds that both Turkey Point and the power plant at FPL’s headquarters in Juno Beach are built on 25-foot mounds in anticipation of rising seas and that the South Dade facility weathered a “direct hit” from Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Listener questions from Twitter
johnnyC @johnnyCreal What plans does FPL have for subterranean lines in the future?
Silagy’s response: “About a third of our entire system (of 71,000 miles of line) is now underground. Undergrounding can make a lot of sense in some areas and in others it can prohibitively expensive, when you have to start tearing up streets. Undergrounding, while it’s great against high winds, it is susceptible to other problems, like flooding. We saw that during Superstorm Sandy when Manhattan flooded because of storm surge. You can’t restore the power until the water recedes.”
@thomasrodrigues Ask why isn't FPL leading drive to place metered charging stations on SFLA streets for electric cars.
Silagy’s response: “We’re big fans of electric vehicles. We’ve actually put over 300 vehicles in our own fleet that are hybrids as well as electric. Charging stations are something we’d be happy to work with the community or the city, or the private entity (on). We’ve put (solar powered) charging stations in in the properties that we have.”
@Nitapooh00 Will they bring fiber to non-commercial users?
Silagy: "FPL is not in the fiber optic business. We actually have a sister company that is, called FPL Fiber Net, and they are one of the primary backbones of fiber here in Florida, and they are expanding."