December 2, 2022

Florida regulators approve Duke Energy's plan for 10 solar plants

State utility regulators on Tuesday backed plans by Duke Energy Florida to build 10 solar plants over the next four years, despite some concerns about size and costs.

In a 4-1 vote, the Public Service Commission supported Duke Energy’s Clean Energy Connection Program that will allow customers to voluntarily pay more on their electric bills to help finance the solar projects. Customers will receive credits that will result in them getting payback in about seven years.

“To the general body of ratepayers there’s a significant amount of funds that are going to be coming back to them over a long period of time. There’s going to be substantial benefits from the renewable energy perspective,” Commission Chairman Gary Clark said. “And, again, I’ve weighed this thing out. I’m really, really back and forth on the issue. But I do believe that it does meet the public-interest test.”

But Commissioner Julie Brown, who voted against the 750-megawatt project, questioned its cost-efficiency. She pointed to a $1.8 billion plan by Florida Power & Light, approved by the regulators in March, that calls for construction of 20 solar-power plants and establish 1,490 megawatts of solar capacity.

“Looking at the two projects, in terms of scale and the projected costs, the Duke project is half the size of the FPL solar, but costs almost exactly as much,” Brown said.

Under Duke’s plan, some customers will voluntarily pay more upfront on their bills to help finance the projects and then receive future bill credits. The utility argues that the program would benefit all of its customers because the solar projects would ultimately reduce the need to build costly natural-gas plants and would help reduce carbon emissions.

The Duke project involves building 10 74.9-megawatt solar plants, with two coming online in January 2022, four coming online in January 2023 and four coming online in January 2024, according to Duke’s proposal filed at the Public Service Commission in July. The costs of each plant would range from $102 million to $113 million.

The Earthjustice legal group, which represented the League of United Latin American Citizens of Florida in opposing the plan, maintains the Duke program will bring costs and financial risks for the vast majority of Duke customers who don’t participate.

Tags: News Service of Florida

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