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Florida Regulators OK FPL's Okeechobee NatGas Power Plant

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) on Tuesday approved Florida Power & Light Co.'s (FPL) proposed Okeechobee Clean Energy Center (OCEC) Unit 1, a 1,600 MW natural gas-fired, combined cycle power plant.

Assuming federal and state approvals, work on the south-central Florida plant would begin in 2017, with an in-service set for June 2019. FPL plans to invest about $1.3 billion in the in Okeechobee County plant.

"FPL's OCEC Unit 1 will ensure continued efficient and reliable energy generation for FPL's customers, which will also translate into millions of dollars of savings for its customers," said PSC Chairman Julie Brown.

The plant is projected to save customers at least $72 million compared to the next best building alternative, according to the PSC. Light oil will be used as a backup fuel.

"The FPL Okeechobee Clean Energy Center represents another major milestone in our successful program of phasing out older power-generating units and investing in new, high-efficiency clean energy centers that reduce emissions and save our customers money on fuel costs," said FLP CEO Eric Silagy.

Since 2001, FPL's investments in natural gas power plants have prevented more than 95 million tons of carbon emissions and saved customers more than $8 billion in fuel costs, the Juno Beach, FL-based utility said.

FPL, the nation's third-largest electric utility, serves 4.8 million customer accounts in Florida, 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 (see Daily GPIJuly 2, 2015).

FLP 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 focused on natural gas. Last summer, it received approval from state regulators to have ratepayer funds help finance its own natural gas exploration efforts in the United States. (see Daily GPIJune 18, 2015) It is also working through its sister company, NextEra Energy Inc., to get more gas from the Northeast to the Southeast (see Shale DailyJune 12, 2014).

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