Merchant power plant developers attempting to get a foot in thedoor in Florida were thrown out again by the state Supreme Court.The court rejected Duke Energy’s motion for rehearing of a decisionhanded down this spring that said the state’s public servicecommission had no authority to approve a 514 MW merchant plant Dukeplanned to build in New Smyrna Beach.

The PSC in March 1999 approved Duke’s petition to build theplant. But Florida Power & Light challenged the PSC rulingbefore the court, which concluded that state laws do not allowpower plants whose output is not committed to retail customers.

The merchant plants, which are opposed by FPL and other localmonopoly utilities, would sell power into the wholesale market andto other utilities in Florida. The court ruling effectively blockeda string of about 25 merchant power projects being planned by anumber of companies, including Dynegy, Panda and Calpine Corp.

“While we were disappointed in the ruling, we are encouraged bythe energy study commission that Gov. [Jeb] Bush has put in place,”said Duke Energy spokesman Rick Rhodes.

The governor issued a mandate earlier this year to set up theEnergy 2020 Study Commission to examine the state’s future energyneeds. At its first meeting recently, the commission decided tobring an interim report in January to the legislature on whetherstate laws need to be changed to allow the merchant power plants tobe developed.

“We’re encouraged by the first meeting this week in which theyhave agreed to develop interim recommendations that hopefully willgo before next year’s legislature,” said Rhodes. “[The statute hasto change] to allow combined cycle facilities with greater than 75MW steam loads to be developed. I think [the legislature willchange the statute].” He noted that the state of Florida will needanother 7,000 to 8,000 MW of new base load generation by 2007.

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