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Fla. PSC approves FPL's 1.49-GW community solar program

SNL Image

Florida Power & Light President Eric Silagy said the SolarTogether program will provide "unprecedented solar access" to participating customers.
Source: Salt River Project

Florida utility regulators on March 3 unanimously approved Florida Power & Light Co.'s SolarTogether initiative to build the largest community solar program in the U.S.

The Florida Public Service Commission voted to greenlight the NextEra Energy Inc. subsidiary's program, in which FPL will build 20 new solar projects with a cumulative capacity of 1,490 MW over the next two years. Customers interested in community solar will have the option to subscribe to the power and receive credits on system savings generated by their participation.

Three-quarters of SolarTogether's allotted capacity will go to commercial and industrial as well as government customers, while the rest will go to small business and residential customers. As part of a settlement agreement with organizations Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Vote Solar, as well as Walmart Inc., FPL will allocate 37.2 MW of solar capacity to customers with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.

The projects are estimated to cost an average of $1,202/kW, or approximately $1.79 billion, including the 1,490 MW of generation and program administration costs, according to FPL's March 3, 2019, filing. The company said the initiative is expected to generate $249 million in net cost savings for both participants and the general body of customers.

"The new solar additions will serve to reduce the risk of higher fuel and emissions costs for all FPL ratepayers," PSC Chairman Gary Clark said in a news release.

FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said the approval of SolarTogether will provide "unprecedented solar access" for participating customers and will contribute to the utility's objective to install more than 30 million solar panels by 2030.

"For years, access to solar energy for many Floridians was not economical or easily accessible. Now, FPL SolarTogether will provide more of our customers access to the environmental and financial benefits of solar generation regardless of where they live or how much money they make while helping increase fuel diversity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and launch Florida into a leadership position for solar energy," Silagy said in a statement.

FPL's program faced some opposition during regulatory proceedings; the PSC staff on Feb. 21 recommended utility commissioners not to approve the program because FPL's proposal included linking its tariff proposal to approval of the generation assets. The staff was also concerned that the program "grants an undue preference to participants and subjects the general body of ratepayers to an undue disadvantage."

The Office of Public Counsel also opposed approving the program, also sharing concerns customers who do not participate in the program may be penalized.

However, renewable energy advocates and industry observers applauded the PSC's approval of the community solar program. In a statement, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said SolarTogether will help boost the state "into a leadership position on solar development and reduce dependence on fossil fuels that contribute to climate change."

"SolarTogether is a huge step forward in a state where large customers formerly had no options to choose renewable energy at scale," said Gloria Li, a policy associate for Advanced Energy Economy.

"We hope to see other utilities follow suit to meet the significant renewable energy demand among commercial and industrial customers in Florida — which could reach nearly 7,000 MW over the next 10 years, bringing billions of dollars of investment and up to 60,000 jobs to meet this demand across the state," Li added.