FPL Objects to Hearing Request on Solar Program

Posted By: Garnie Holmes Industry ,

Calling arguments by the state Office of Public Counsel “premature, unnecessary and baseless,” Florida Power & Light is asking regulators to deny a request for an administrative hearing on a proposal that includes adding 20 solar-power plants.

The Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers in utility issues, filed a request last month asking for a detailed hearing before the Public Service Commission decides whether to approve FPL’s proposed “SolarTogether” program.

Commission staff members are scheduled July 25 to make a recommendation about the proposal under a process that doesn’t require a full hearing. After receiving the staff recommendation, the commission then could decide whether to approve the proposal. FPL on Wednesday filed a nine-page document arguing that an administrative hearing at this point is unnecessary. It said, in part, the Office of Public Counsel could request a hearing in the future if it objects to the commission’s decision on the SolarTogether proposal. “First, it is premature for OPC (the Office of Public Counsel) to conclude that its concerns will not be addressed,” the document filed Wednesday said. “It is possible that, based on the PSC’s (Public Service Commission’s) decision, no hearing will be desired or necessary.

If, however, OPC still has objections after the commission issues the notice of its proposed agency action, and has adequately addressed conflicts in its role as counsel for all FPL customers, OPC will have a point of entry, i.e., the right to file a protest of the proposed agency action and request a hearing.” In its request, the Office of Public Counsel pointed to the size of the proposed program and complex engineering and financial issues and said issues raised “have generated concern and interest from numerous persons and entities across Florida.” FPL filed a petition March 13 seeking approval of the program. The proposal, at least initially, seeks to build 20 solar plants that would generate 1,490 megawatts of electricity, with a projected cost of $1.79 billion, according to the petition.

The filing said FPL projects long-term savings of $139 million because the increased use of solar would allow it to avoid costs related to natural-gas or other types of power plants. Customers would be able to voluntarily participate in SolarTogether, paying a charge each month and receiving credits for savings produced by the program.

Article reposted with permission from The News Service of Florida.