Duke Energy Florida filed a revised settlement agreement with the Florida Public Service Commission last week that paves the way to a smarter energy future for Florida customers. The settlement agreement includes investments in solar energy, smart meters, grid modernization projects to enhance reliability, make the grid more resilient and secure, and optional billing programs to enhance customer choices. The agreement also includes plans to install electric vehicle charging stations and a battery storage pilot program. The company will also no longer move forward with building the Levy Nuclear Project and customers will not pay any further costs associated with the project.
The settlement agreement was developed with representatives of all consumer groups, including the state's Office of Public Counsel, the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, the Florida Retail Federation, White Springs Agricultural Chemicals, Inc. d/b/a PCS Phosphate and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
"This settlement allows us to move forward to create a smarter energy future for our customers and communities," said Harry Sideris, Duke Energy state president – Florida. "It resolves the future of the Levy Nuclear Project and reinforces our commitment to building cost-effective solar in Florida. It also makes smart investments that will offer customers more information, choices and control of their energy needs while also providing greater reliability."
The agreement will take effect in January 2018 and will include investments of nearly $6 billion over the next four years while minimizing the impact on customer bills.
Major components of the revised settlement agreement include:
- A reduction of $2.50 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) for residential customers through the removal of unrecovered Levy Nuclear Project costs. Customers will not pay any further costs related to this project. The company will absorb more than $150 million in costs that would have been recovered through rates.
- A reduction of $2.53 per 1,000 kWh for residential customers by spreading the costs for under-recovered fuel of approximately $196 million over a two-year period (rather than one year).
- The addition of 700 MW of cost-effective solar power facilities over the next four years, accelerating the company's previous 10-year solar installation plan.
- Expanded customer choices with two new optional billing programs – a Shared Solar program to allow customers to participate in solar generation, and a FixedBill program for residential customers to allow them to pay a fixed amount each month regardless of usage.
- Investments to modernize the energy grid to enhance reliability, reduce outages, shorten restoration times and support the growth of renewable energy and emerging technologies.
- Installation of advanced metering technology (smart meters) to enable more bill-lowering tools, access to more information about energy use, and the ability to receive usage alerts, outage notifications and customized billing options once fully implemented.
- The installation of more than 500 electric vehicle charging stations and up to 50 MW of battery storage.
- If the proposed changes are approved, the portion of Duke Energy Florida's typical residential, commercial and industrial customer bills associated with the settlement would increase approximately 1 to 3 percent annually in 2019-2021; about the same as general inflation rates. Typical residential rates are expected to remain at or below the national average.
"This settlement agreement shows that we're listening to our customers and key stakeholders. Our customers have told us they want electricity that is reliable, increasingly clean and more secure. They also want more value and options for their energy needs," said Sideris. "This settlement delivers on all these customer and stakeholder expectations."
New Solar Plant in Hamilton County
The company plans to begin construction of its sixth Florida solar power plant to be located in Hamilton County in early 2018. The plant will have approximately 300,000 solar panels and will be built on nearly 550 acres of land in Jasper.
The Hamilton Solar Plant will produce 74.9 MW of clean, emissions-free energy, which is enough to power more than 20,000 homes at peak production.