FPL opposes rooftop solar, deploys utility-scale solar 2021-12-20

FPL profits from deploying utilty-scale solar fields, but its executives and shareholders do not profit by home and business solar panels reducing need to generate power and reducing purchases of expensive mid-day electricity. So FPL opposes rooftop solar while bragging about being a world leader in solar energy.

FPL is regulated as a public utility, so you can demand the Florida legislature stop this bad bill. How about some solar financing instead?

[Rooftop vs. utilty-scale solar]
Rooftop vs. utilty-scale solar

Mary Ellen Klas for the Miami Herald and Mario Alejandro Ariza for Floodlight, 20 December 2021, Revealed: the Florida power company pushing legislation to slow rooftop solar; Florida Power & Light delivered bill text to a state lawmaker. Its parent company sent $10,000 to her campaign coffers,

The biggest power company in the US is pushing policy changes that would hamstring rooftop solar power in Florida, delivering legislation for a state lawmaker to introduce, according to records obtained by the Miami Herald and Floodlight.

Florida Power & Light (FPL), whose work with dark money political committees helped secure Republican control of the state Senate, is lobbying to hollow out net metering, a policy that lets Florida homeowners and businesses offset the costs of installing solar panels by selling power back to the company.

Internal emails obtained from the Florida Senate show that an FPL lobbyist, John Holley, sent the text of the bill to state senator Jennifer Bradley’s staff on 18 October. FPL’s parent company contributed $10,000 to Bradley’s political committee on 20 October. A month later, Bradley filed a bill that was almost identical to the one FPL gave her. Another lawmaker introduced the same measure in the House.

Bradley said the donation was unrelated to the bill.

“Any decision I make to file legislation is based entirely on whether it’s in the best interest of our state and my district,” she said. “This discussion about fairness in metering is happening in legislatures across the country and it’s time for it to happen in Florida.”

FPL’s parent company, NextEra, said its political committee did not make its contribution to Bradley’s campaign “with an expectation of favor”.

Well, if the legislator and the utility both say that, maybe it’s purely coincidental.

But that “happening in legislatures across the country” is a clue. See the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), UPDATING NET METERING POLICIES RESOLUTION, whose number 1 item is:

  1. Update net metering policies to require that everyone who uses the grid helps pay to maintain it and to keep it operating reliably at all times;

Back to the article:

An FPL spokesman, Chris McGrath, said the company does not oppose net metering but that the law should be revised so rooftop solar users are not subsidized by other customers who continue to buy electricity and pay to maintain the power grid. FPL argues that rooftop solar could cost Florida utilities about $700m between 2019 and 2025, according to documents submitted to state regulators.

“We simply believe rooftop solar customers should pay the full cost of this investment,” McGrath said.

Maybe that’s another coincidence that FPL’s position is the same as ALEC’s.

And another coincidence that SB 1024 by Sen. Jennifer Bradley, District 5, says:

(1)(b) Customer-owned and -leased renewable generation are not available to many public utility customers who lack the financial resources to purchase or lease rooftop solar panels or who reside in multitenant buildings. The substantial growth of customer-owned and -leased renewable generation has resulted in increased cross-subsidization of the full cost of electric service onto the public utility’s general body of ratepayers. Therefore, the redesigned net metering rate structures required in paragraph (6)(a) must ensure that public utility customers who own or lease renewable generation pay the full cost of electric service and are not cross-subsidized by the public utility’s general body of ratepayers.

Actually, community solar, with people buying into solar panels on community buildings such as businesses or parking lots or churches or auditoriums, can permit anybody to benefit from rooftop solar power.

[Community Carport, Community Solar Financing]
Community Carport, Community Solar Financing. Photo: Sustainable Capital Finance.

Actually, FPL could do what Austin Energy did almost twenty years ago, offer a big rebate to rooftop solar customers for deploying solar panels on their roofs. Austin Energy still offers a $2,500 rebate. Further, Austin Energy at least used to pay 3 cents per KwH more for rooftop solar power. Minnesota does something similar in a Value of Solar Tariff (VOST) because:

  • Avoiding the purchase of energy from other, polluting sources
  • Avoiding the need to build additional power plant capacity to meet peak energy needs
  • Providing energy for decades at a fixed price
  • Reducing wear and tear on the electric grid, including power lines, substations, and power plants

Actually, rooftop solar can subsidize other utility customers by lowering rates. Which utilities don’t want, so they’re trying to legislate it away.

Yes, rooftop solar actually saves utilities money by reducing the amount of power they need to buy or generate. Megan Geuss, Ars Technical, July 18, 2018, Rooftop solar could save utilities $100 to $120 per installed kilowatt: Solar can help avoid costs for utilities, which is both good and bad for them.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) quantified that reduced demand and found that solar panels installed between 2013 and 2015 in California saved utilities from having to purchase between $650 million and $730 million dollars’ worth of electricity. Those avoided purchases create slack in demand, pushing wholesale prices lower.

But utilities generally don’t care about that rooftop solar avoided cost. They care about lower prices, which cut into their profits. And they care about rooftop solar reducing demand during peak summer air conditioning hours, because that’s the most expensive power utilities sell. And they care about not being able to charge ratepayers for building new power plants, because utilities profit off of that. Austin Energy is not a typical utility, because its board is the Austin City Council, whose purpose is not profit.

FPL is busily building new utility-scale solar fields all over Florida. Dave Kovaleski, EnergyInsider, April 6, 2021, Florida Power & Light files 10-year plan that includes increase in solar power,

In its Ten-Year Site Plan filed with the commission, FPL said it will install 30 million solar panels by 2030 and have more than 11,000 MW of installed solar capacity by then. FPL already has almost 40 solar centers in the state, with seven more coming this year. Also, by the end of the decade, FPL will have an additional 700 MW of battery storage, a 186 percent increase from 2021.

That FPL Ten-Year Site Plan devotes about ten percent of its pages to detailed plans and maps for utility solar locations, including, on page 255, “Echo River Battery Storage Center”:

The design includes an approximately 30MW, 2.5 hour Battery Storage facility, and site stormwater system.

[FPL Echo River Solar Energy Center, Suwannee County, Florida]
FPL Echo River Solar Energy Center, Suwannee County, Florida. Photo: FPL.

FPL is deploying utility-scale solar in Georgia, too, sometimes not in a good place.

Utilities like solar fields, because they can bill ratepayers to build them. And utilities can continue charging their same old rates for power, while those solar fields reduce utility costs to generate: more profit!

Rooftop solar is the opposite: it still reduces utility costs to generate, but it also reduces the amount of power ratepayers buy, especially that expensive mid-day power.

The companion Florida House Bill 741 by Rep. Laurence McClure, District 58, Hillsborough County, appears to have made it through four committees and onto the floor of the house.

Please ask your Florida statehouse delegation to stop these bad net metering bills, SB 1024 and HB 741.

Senator Bradley represents much of the Suwannee River Basin, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, Union counties and part of Marion county.

FL State House District 5 map

As you may know, she is married to Rob Bradley, who used to be state Senator for the same district. So any grasstops you may know for him might work for her, too.

Or just contact her office directly and ask her to retract this bill.

Or try the state Senator for most of the rest of the Suwannee River Basin, Sen. Loranne Ausley, District 3, including Hamilton, Madison, and Taylor Counties.

Florida state Senate District 3 map

Or Sen. Keith Perry, District 8, which includes Alachua County.

Or try to head it off in the House by contacting your state Representative.

A public utility should serve the public instead of prioritizing profit for its executives and shareholders.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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