How a Florida Power Project flew under the regulatory radar

“The whole energy policy dynamic in Florida has alienated the public interest,” said E. Leon Jacobs Jr., a former chairman of the Florida Public Service Commission who was elected president of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a non- profit environmental organization, in September 2020. “There were definitely problems and challenges that need to be created regarding that transfer line.”

The project will be funded in part by a $ 692 million increase in customer rates in 2022 – a share of $ 4.9 billion in four-year cumulative tariff increases approved by the Public Services Commission long after Mr. Jacobs’ departure. Due to the tension of the line, the design and suitability of the project do not require any more detailed reviews by the commission and other state agencies.

Transmission data collected by the U.S. Department of Energy highlight how unusual 161-kilovolt lines are, especially over long distances. Just 3 percent of all transmission lines in the country are 161 kilovolts, and they are on average five miles long, said Mr. McCullough, who reviewed the data.

The Public Services Commission, responsible for ensuring that investment in utilities is prudent and prevents economic waste, declined to comment on Florida Power & Light’s transfer line, its financing or practice, noting that the tariff case could be appealed. become.

The company said it had complied with its legal and regulatory requirements.

“To be blunt, this kind of criticism is wrong and shows a fundamental lack of understanding of how the regulatory process works,” said David Reuter, a for NextEra Energy, which owns the utility. “The unanimous FPSC decision on the FPL tariff case is the culmination of the ordinary, transparent, almost year-long public process of assessing and setting up new basic electrical tariffs.”

Richard Gentry, who was named the state’s top consumer lawyer early last year after long working as a lobbyist for tobacco, alcohol, horse racing, manufacturing and other industries, said his office had no authority to question a low-voltage transmission project.

Mr. Gentry, however, took part in negotiations on the tariff issue that included the transfer project. The approved tariff increase includes a return for the utilities that is among the highest in the country and valued at as much as $ 1 billion more than the state’s two other investor-owned utilities (Duke Energy and Tampa Electric).

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