FPL a Leader on Solar Energy?

In a recent blog post, I questioned FPL’s leadership on solar power and the scale and design of a recently announced voluntary “community-based” solar program. In a response letter, the Company took offense to the blog – calling it misleading. Let’s take a closer look at some of the Company’s responses to the blog and come clean on the facts.

FPL claims that it has “long been a leader on solar energy,” and goes on to say that “commitment to clean energy is in our DNA: FPL’s parent company NextEra Energy, is the largest provider of renewable energy from the wind and sun in North America.”

Fact: FPL is not NextEra Energy [Resources]

FPL often conflates NextEra Energy and itself. In fact, NextEra Energy is the parent company of two subsidiaries: NextEra Energy Resources and FPL. NextEra Energy Resources primarily provides renewable energy in markets outside of Florida and has generating assets with a capacity of about 18,000 megawatts (MW) – its energy portfolio is comprised of 59% renewable energy: 56% wind and 3% solar power.

Closer to home, FPL is a regulated Florida investor-owned utility and one of the largest in the country – with about 24,000 MW of generating capacity.  The company’s renewable energy portfolio is comprised of no wind, some biopower contracts with primarily waste to energy facilities and 110 MW of utility-owned solar power. The Company generates less than 1/10 of 1 % of its power from solar energy.

In its letter, FPL claims that “we hope to add hundreds of megawatts of additional solar capacity in the years ahead.” Yet, FPL has no solar energy projects slated for development for the next ten years, according to its 2014 Ten Year Site Plan. The only solar plan before the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) by FPL is a voluntary solar program which may construct up to 2.4 MW (best case scenario) and which is essentially its Sunshine Energy Program approach to solar PV development based on a charitable donation model – previously scrapped by the Florida PSC for poor management.

To the extent FPL shares DNA with NextEra Energy, for FPL, the solar energy gene must have skipped a generation.

Fact: FPL trails peer utilities badly on solar development

In contrast, a similarly regulated peer utility to our north, Georgia Power, is thinking big on solar. Georgia Power, is on pace to have nearly 800 MW of solar power by the end of 2016. The bulk of this capacity will be added through Georgia Power’s Advanced Solar Initiative (ASI), which was expanded by the Georgia PSC last year by an additional 525 MW. ASI consists of utility scale solar projects with a smaller portion comprised of distributed solar – like rooftop solar. In approving the program, the Georgia PSC found that the Georgia Power’s ASI solar program will provide valuable cost effective power to its customers – on par or cheaper than conventional generation.

Why doesn’t FPL proactively file a similar program with the Florida PSC for approval? Ask the Company.

Fact: FPL’s ‘new’ plan is not a community solar program

FPL claims that its solar plan is a “community-based” program. Yet, there is nothing in the design of the proposed solar plan that gives FPL the right to use “community” in the moniker of the program. Community solar is a term of art with a set of best practices which invariably requires that customers own a slice of the project. FPL’s program, on the other hand is a green pricing program based on $9/month voluntary donations from its customers – with little transparency to the customer on what they have purchased and no sense of ownership in any project(s) that may get built.

FPL would be well advised to look at the design of the Orlando Utility Commission (OUC) community solar program. Under OUC’s program, customers can purchase 1 KW increments of its community solar project. Therefore, OUC customers know exactly what they have purchased and reap the benefit of of locking in the flat rate for power for the life of the solar project. Moreover, OUC’s community solar program is over 3 times the size (relative to its customer base)  than the best case scenario of 2.4 MW from FPL’s recycled, feelgood donation solar plan.

Based on the above facts, can FPL claim to be a “leader” on solar energy? You be the judge.

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We have 46 solar panels on our roof at a cost of $66K including battery backup. FPL reimbursed $20K and federal tax credit of 30% of the remainder, 14K, made our cost about 32K. Our system saves us about $150-$200/month of our power bill. FPL credits us at the same rate as they charge us for power we generate and send to the power grid. The backup system was about $22K of the total cost. Payback can be figured including backup or not.

Comment by Geri G Walker on May 22, 2014 10:16 am

You forgot the part about how FP&L is doing everything it can to rescind net metering in Florida. Now that’s real “leadership” in promoting solar energy!

FP&L is all about Green Washing and controlling the message, not promoting renewable energy. They are a huge supporter of PBS in Florida, as well as a major advertiser with almost all the other media outlets so no one wants to say anything derogatory for fear of losing their corporate support. (All at the expense of ratepayers btw)

And let’s not forget the army of lobbyists in Tallahassee strong arming the legislature to do their bidding. No RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) for the “Sunshine” State.

They have an entire department that does nothing but monitor what’s being said about them, (again at ratepayers expense) and every branch manager is tasks with sending in anything about them that appears in local media. You obviously hit a nerve because you got a rise out of them.

Good job calling them out but please keep digging because there is a lot more dirt to be dug up.

It really is a joke that’s not funny except to FP&L, who’s laughing all the way to the bank!

And PS: You’re being far too generous to Ga Power and OUC because they’re not really much better, just less worse. Let’s call it like it is: “Token Solar”.

Comment by Carter Quillen on May 22, 2014 5:34 pm

The FPL $2.00 per watt incentive (lottery) was a totally disruptive force for solar installers. It was designed to keep most customers sitting on the fence waiting another year for the next round. The fact that 7 million dollars for solar PV goes in less that 3 minutes, is proof of the pent up demand for solar in the Sun Shine State!

Comment by Bob Everhard on May 23, 2014 5:33 pm

Tell it! (well done!). As a pennisula, Florida stands to benefit greatly by planning for distributed energy resources rather than conventional big fossil or nuclear plant with more and more wires. Hawaii gets this: http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/hawaii-crosses-the-energy-rubicon.

Comment by Deb Swim on May 24, 2014 11:31 am

Solar in FL is finally affordable! Our pricing allows you to finance 100% and have your monthly payment be less than your monthly electric bill and then another 20+ years of income! Power you whole house with the Sun…All sizes available. Total turnkey system $2.70 @ watt for made in the USA panels & free for life online monitoring included 🙂

Comment by Peter on May 28, 2014 8:51 am

fpl does not want anyone providing power but them period , wake up people they are in the power biz with 35 years in the energy conservation alternative energy biz i can tell you fpl protects fpl always has always will . you want alternative power you the people have to do it not the government or the big biz use less power and go solar on your own 2 panels at a time . ITS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN ANY OTHER WAY!!

Comment by franklin freedman on May 28, 2014 8:55 am

Gov Askew,almost forty years ago,realized the Florida Legislature was an obstacle to government in the sunshine. Petitions were offered to the people,which they overwhelmingly supported. The people voted to amend the Florida Constitution to require a host of open government reforms.
In the next couple of weeks,two citizen’s initiatives will be introduced for the 2016 ballot.
1) Repeal of the ANCR clause,the Utility Tax. This law passed in 2006 allows investor owned utilities (IOUS) to collect money from ratepayers. Billions are being collected. Ratepayers are required to act as investors and give money to private,for profit companies that are monopolies and get a fixed rate of return.
2) Deregulation of Renewable Power
Allows individuals and businesses to sell renewable power without being a regulated utility. (PW Ventures, vs Florida Public Service Commission )

Comment by Dwight Dudley on May 30, 2014 7:18 am

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