Two of the nation's largest utility companies are advancing plans to build a pair of 1,600 MW natural gas-fired power plants in the southeast to take advantage of growing supplies that would also help them meet tighter emissions standards and replace inefficient coal-fired plants.

Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) said Thursday that a $1.2 billion, 1,600 MW natural gas-fired plant in southern Florida's Okeechobee County would be "the best, most economical" option to meet anticipated power demand in the state. The company said it would go forward with the project and is aiming for an in-service date of mid-2019, pending local, state and federal government approval. If built, FPL said the facility could provide enough electricity for more than 300,000 homes.

FPL, the nation's third-largest electric utility, serves 4.8 million customer accounts in the state, a number that it said is expected to increase to 5 million accounts, representing 10 million people, by 2019. Given that growth, and the need to replace aging facilities, the company has forecast a significant need for additional firm power generation beginning in 2019.

It is already in the process of constructing the Port Everglades Next Generation Clean Energy Center, another natural gas-fired plant that's expected to enter service in mid-2016. Along with solar and nuclear power, FPL has been intently focused on natural gas. Last month, it earned approval from state regulators to have ratepayer funds help finance its own natural gas exploration efforts in the U.S. (see Daily GPI, June 18)  It’s also working through its sister company, NextEra Energy Inc., to get more gas from the Northeast to the Southeast (see Shale Daily, June 12, 2014).

Meanwhile, Dominion Resources Inc. subsidiary Dominion Virginia Power asked the state Corporate Commission on Wednesday for a certificate to build a $1.3 billion, 1,600 MW natural gas-fired power plant in Greensville County in the southern part of the state. If approved, the company said the facility would provide enough electricity for 400,000 homes during peak demand. The company said the Greensville Power Station would help it meet new air quality and proposed carbon dioxide emissions standards, as well as increasing customer demand in the region.

Pending regulatory approval, Dominion hopes to have the facility in service by 2019. Dominion North Carolina Power and Dominion Virginia Power serve a combined 2.4 million customers.