With regulators poised to take up the issue in January, the Sierra Club is challenging the need for a new Florida Power & Light plant in Broward County.
The state Public Service Commission on Friday granted a request from the Sierra Club to formally intervene in the case, which involves FPL's request for a key regulatory approval --- known as a “determination of need” --- for the $888 million project.
FPL wants to build an 1,163-megawatt natural gas plant that would replace two old generating units and begin operating in 2022. The Public Service Commission has scheduled a hearing Jan. 18 and Jan. 19 on the request.
In seeking to intervene in the case, the Sierra Club questioned whether the new plant is the most cost-effective way to meet electricity needs and whether increased use of renewable energy and conservation could help “mitigate” the need.
“This docket may culminate in the issuance of a `determination of need,' facilitating Florida Power and Light's construction of a massive, ratepayer-funded fossil fuel generating unit at FPL's existing site in Dania Beach,” the Sierra Club said in a document filed early this month. “If a determination of need is granted, the project will further commit Florida to high-cost, fossil fuel burning electricity generation and … stifle the adoption of clean energy solutions and defer concomitant cost, health and environmental benefits.”
But in a petition filed last month seeking the determination of need, FPL said building the new plant would save $337 million in the future compared to the costs of continuing to operate the older, more-inefficient generating units. The project also would use existing infrastructure at the site, which is on 392 acres in parts of Dania Beach and Hollywood.
In the petition, the utility described the project as a “highly cost-effective choice for serving FPL's customers.”
“If the need determination is denied, FPL is projected to burn more natural gas for its generation needs than would be the case if the need determination for (the proposed plant) is approved compared to keeping the status quo,” the petition said. “In summary, a decision to not grant a need determination for (the proposed plant) is projected to result in higher costs, lower system reliability, lower regional reliability, and higher fossil fuel usage, all to the detriment of FPL and its customers.”
The Public Service Commission in July gave an initial boost to the project when it approved a request from FPL to be exempt from a requirement that could have forced the utility to seek possible alternatives to the proposed plant. The Sierra Club also objected to that request, contending it would allow FPL to ignore other options, such as using renewable energy.