How a Florida power project slipped under the regulatory radar

“The whole dynamic of energy policy in Florida has alienated the public interest,” said E. Leon Jacobs Jr., former chairman of the Florid...


“The whole dynamic of energy policy in Florida has alienated the public interest,” said E. Leon Jacobs Jr., former chairman of the Florida Public Service Commission, who was elected chairman of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a non-profit environmental organization, in September 2020. “There were absolutely issues and challenges that should have been addressed with respect to this transmission line.”

The project will be funded in part by a $692 million increase in customer rates in 2022 — part of the $4.9 billion in four-year cumulative rate increases the Public Service Commission approved long after the departure of Mr. Jacobs. Due to the tension of the line, the design and adequacy of the project did not require further detailed reviews by the commission and other state agencies.

Transmission Data collected by the US Department of Energy highlights how unusual 161-kilovolt lines are, especially over long distances. Only 3% of all transmission lines in the country are 161 kilovolts, and their average length is five miles, said McCullough, who reviewed the data.

The Public Service Commission, charged with ensuring that utility investments are prudent and avoid economic waste, declined to comment on the transmission line, its financing or Florida Power & Light’s practices, noting that the rate case could be appealed.

The company said it met its legal and regulatory requirements.

“To be frank, this type of criticism is misguided and demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of how the regulatory process works,” said David Reuter, spokesman for utility owner NextEra Energy. “FPSC’s unanimous decision on FPL’s rate case is the culmination of the usual, transparent, nearly year-long public process of reviewing and establishing new base electricity rates.”

Richard Gentry, who was named the state’s top consumer advocate early last year after long working as a lobbyist for tobacco, alcohol, horse racing, manufacturing and other industries, said his office lacked the authority to challenge a low-voltage transmission project.

Mr. Gentry, however, participated in the negotiations of the rate case, which included the transmission project. The approved rate increase includes a utility return that is among the highest in the nation and valued at $1 billion more than the other two state-investor-owned utilities (Duke Energy and Tampa Electric).

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Newsrust - US Top News: How a Florida power project slipped under the regulatory radar
How a Florida power project slipped under the regulatory radar
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