Eric Silagy: FPL defends its record
I appreciate the fact that Stephen Smith and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy have been supportive of Florida Power & Light Co.’s efforts to bring solar energy to Florida, and we are in strong agreement on the need for urgent action to address climate change. That’s why I was so disappointed with Smith’s recent My View ("Florida’s utilities want to build, not conserve," Aug. 17). Here are the facts about energy efficiency and nuclear power that readers of the Democrat need to know.
Florida Power & Light has the No. 1 demand-side management program out of more than 3,000 utilities nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Our programs have reduced energy demand more than any other utility in the nation. As a result, we have avoided the need to build 12 power plants. Our customers represent just 3 percent of the population of the United States but have helped achieve 13 percent of the country’s energy reduction through our programs.
Smith says FPL’s efficiency goal is declining. This is misleading. The fact is, when combined with tougher federal appliance and lighting standards mandated in 2005 under the National Energy Policy Act and in 2007 under the Energy Independence and Security Act, FPL’s proposed demand-side management goal is 1,559 megawatts, almost double the combined amount projected in 2004. Smith wants you to ignore the contribution these tougher federal rules are making and unnecessarily increase FPL customer’s rates.
There is no "sharp increase" in customer bills for nuclear power, as Smith alleges. The cost to a typical FPL customer of our proposed new nuclear units is going down from $2.13 per month in 2009 to 67 cents per month in 2010.
Smith says nuclear plants do not pay for themselves. This is not true. At FPL, it cost $2.1 billion to build our nuclear units at Turkey Point (in 1972 and 1973) and at St. Lucie (in 1976 and 1983). These units have saved customers more than $8 billion in fuel costs since 2000 alone. And our proposed new units at Turkey Point have an upper-end cost estimate of $24 billion, but they are estimated to save customers approximately $93 billion in fuel costs over the initial 40-year license period. This is straightforward math — something Smith wants everyone to ignore.
The efficiency goals touted by Smith would not "lower customer costs" as he would like you to believe. On the contrary, his proposal would force all customers to pay for the efficiency programs currently used only by those who choose to sign up. We do not believe in forcing some of our customers to subsidize other customers.
As FPL’s track record as the nation’s leader in demand-side management shows, we are committed to helping our customers save money through efficiency programs. Some call efficiency the "fifth fuel" of power generation, after coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables. For FPL, it is the "first fuel," and has been for decades. Under the wise policies put in place years ago in Florida, the Public Service Commission ensures that no public utility can move forward with the construction of a new power plant until it has exhausted all cost-effective energy efficiency options.
The key word is cost-effective. Smith’s proposal would cost Floridians nearly $4 billion more than is necessary to meet the state’s statutory energy efficiency goals. We would be unwise to discard the well-developed plan that has made us the nation’s leader in conservation and adopt flawed efficiency ideas that will needlessly raise costs.
We share the Southern Alliance’s passion for clean energy and environmental responsibility, and we look forward to collaborating with them whenever possible. At the same time, we have an obligation to our customers to balance energy efficiency with a commitment to keeping costs as low as possible. Our track record as the company with the lowest electric bill in Florida and the leading efficiency program in the nation proves we can do both.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric Silagy is vice president and chief development officer of Florida Power & Light Co.