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FPL's main squeeze

But what if you're an electric company and you need to get more mileage out of your power plants because you can't build the new coal plant you were counting on? For Florida Power & Light Co., the state's largest utility, that's the multibillion-dollar question: How to keep the juice flowing to what in a few years will be a customer base of 10 million people - 10 million people who run the air conditioner almost all year long and who are attached to all sorts of electronic gadgets......Attractive as renewables might be, they've got a long way to go to make up a substantial part of FPL's energy supply. For instance, the company would need 8,000 wind turbines or 20 square miles of solar photovoltaic panels to equal the amount of power that would have been generated by the proposed Glades County coal plant. "Ultimately, it's a small amount of generation," said Bedley of Apex Power.

How do you get better gas mileage out of your car?

Many mechanics would recommend that you change the oil regularly, use fuel injector cleaners, tune the spark plugs, change the air filter, replace the head gaskets and exhaust valves, and turn the car off if you're stopping for more than 10 minutes.

But what if you're an electric company and you need to get more mileage out of your power plants because you can't build the new coal plant you were counting on?

For Florida Power & Light Co., the state's largest utility, that's the multibillion-dollar question: How to keep the juice flowing to what in a few years will be a customer base of 10 million people - 10 million people who run the air conditioner almost all year long and who are attached to all sorts of electronic gadgets.

"When you look at the growth that is taking place in the service territory - between 87,000 and 95,000 customers a year - you need to add capacity with available energy sources," FPL spokesman Mayco Villafaña said.

FPL and the state's other investor-owned and municipally owned utilities will meet with the state Public Service Commission on Wednesday to review their 10-year... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

How do you get better gas mileage out of your car?

Many mechanics would recommend that you change the oil regularly, use fuel injector cleaners, tune the spark plugs, change the air filter, replace the head gaskets and exhaust valves, and turn the car off if you're stopping for more than 10 minutes.

But what if you're an electric company and you need to get more mileage out of your power plants because you can't build the new coal plant you were counting on?

For Florida Power & Light Co., the state's largest utility, that's the multibillion-dollar question: How to keep the juice flowing to what in a few years will be a customer base of 10 million people - 10 million people who run the air conditioner almost all year long and who are attached to all sorts of electronic gadgets.

"When you look at the growth that is taking place in the service territory - between 87,000 and 95,000 customers a year - you need to add capacity with available energy sources," FPL spokesman Mayco Villafaña said.

FPL and the state's other investor-owned and municipally owned utilities will meet with the state Public Service Commission on Wednesday to review their 10-year electricity plans for Florida. It's an annual discussion, but this year the focus has changed.

After Gov. Charlie Crist held a two-day summit in Miami last month on climate change, complete with speeches by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., this year's talk will not be about diversifying the fuel mix to include more coal.

Instead, it will focus on conservation, efficiency and renewable fuel.

Villafaña said not to expect any major announcements Wednesday but did acknowledge that the utility is already focusing on next year's report, to be filed in April.

"We're looking at different options, and there hasn't been an announcement on how we're going to do that," Villafaña said. "Within the energies that are available, certainly nuclear and certainly natural gas are two of the sources that we are considering."

FPL had proposed building a 1,960-megawatt "clean coal" plant north of Moore Haven in Glades County. The first of two units would have opened in 2013, but the PSC voted the project down in June.

Even if the Glades Power Park had been approved, it wouldn't have been able to handle all of the growth in FPL's power needs. Between now and 2016, the utility was going to have to supplement the coal plant with 4,500 megawatts of natural gas, according to a regulatory document filed by Rene Silva, FPL's resource assessment and planning director.

FPL gets more than 50 percent of its fuel from natural gas, and without the coal plant that amount is going to climb to 71 percent by 2016, Silva said.

"There's nothing else they can do in the short term," said Frank Maisano, a Washington-based spokesman for the utility and refinery industry.

State utility regulators said no to the Glades coal project because it wasn't cost-effective: natural gas prices could drop, and a looming tax on carbon emissions could make the price of coal go up. Combine that with the green-power conversion of Crist, who said last month that coal was "not looking good" for Florida, and you have FPL and other utilities back at the drawing board.

"Natural gas is just the way it's going to be," said Mike Bedley, a regulatory and commercial specialist with Apex Power Corp. in Davie. "Coal plants are being turned down, so what other option is there?"

One issue with natural gas, however, is reliability.

Florida is a peninsula and therefore gets its natural gas from limited sources - mostly a huge pipeline off the Gulf Coast. Villafaña said FPL would consider getting gas from a variety of places, including new pipelines, proposed offshore deepwater ports, gas storage facilities or a liquefied natural gas project on Elba Island, Ga.

"These future investments will be needed to maintain natural gas reliability in a growing state," he said.

After that it comes down to what is fast becoming a buzzword for some and a thorn for others: efficiency.

FPL has taken several steps to minimize the strain on its grid during the hottest times of the day in what's known as "demand-side management," but President Armando Olivera said last month the company is going to have to go back and figure out ways to do more with conservation.

"We've also gone back and said, 'OK, how much more can we do? Are we really pushing the envelope on everything?''" Olivera said. "We are pushing hard internally to make sure we've looked at all of the options."

Maisano, the utility industry spokesman, said conservation only goes so far.

"Their programs have already conserved their way out of 11 power plants," he said. "I'm sure there's a little more, but you're asking them to lay the golden egg right there."

Neal Elliott, industrial program director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a Washington-based nonprofit, said FPL's big opportunities for conservation are going to come with upgrading large industrial operations.

Elliott said the utility could help change light fixtures in a big building to 60 watts from 120 watts, upgrade chillers and install sensors that could cut electricity costs by 30 percent to 40 percent.

"One of the things we found out is that you have to give specific recommendations and specific guidance," he said. "One person putting a (compact fluorescent) light bulb in doesn't make a difference, but 100,000 people putting in one makes a difference."

Even though FPL's programs have been praised as models for reducing energy load, clean-energy advocates remain critical.

"What they have failed to do is aggressively pursue what we call 'core energy efficiency,''" said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Knoxville, Tenn.-based Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which owns 500 shares of stock in FPL's parent company, Juno Beach-based FPL Group Inc.

Smith is on the advisory board of FPL's green-power Sunshine Energy program and said the utility could buy back old, power-hungry refrigerators, push for new building codes or offer tax breaks and other incentives on solar hot water heaters and energy-efficient light bulbs.

Through Sunshine Energy, the utility is building a 150-kilowatt solar array in Sarasota, and 58 of its customers use photovoltaic panels. The utility has installed solar panels on the Miami Science Museum and on elementary, middle and high schools, with more projects on the way.

FPL also is considering a pilot wind project near the coastline of St. Lucie County. The utility's 10-year site plan says the project could be up to 10 megawatts. FPL buys about 158 megawatts - about 1.5 percent of its net energy - from renewable fuel and in April started looking for additional suppliers.

The utility also wants to add one or two nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point plant, bringing the total number of reactors in its territory to six. Representatives from FPL and St. Petersburg-based Progress Energy Florida will be part of a nuclear panel at Wednesday's meeting.

"There are a number of (renewable energy) proposals, and we're analyzing them now," Villafaña said. The utility is set to release a "short list" of possible contractors Nov. 1 but does not have a firm date on announcing winning bid.

Attractive as renewables might be, they've got a long way to go to make up a substantial part of FPL's energy supply.

For instance, the company would need 8,000 wind turbines or 20 square miles of solar photovoltaic panels to equal the amount of power that would have been generated by the proposed Glades County coal plant.

"Ultimately, it's a small amount of generation," said Bedley of Apex Power.



Source: http://www.palmbeachpost.co...

AUG 12 2007
https://www.windaction.org/posts/10580-fpl-s-main-squeeze
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