A renewable energy bill backed by Florida Power & Light has stalled in both houses of the Florida legislature, and is likely to see some changes before it moves ahead.
The bill in its current form would allow Florida’s major private utilities to charge their customers for the full cost of renewable energy projects worth up to 2 percent of their annual revenue without having to clear all the regulatory hurdles normally required for rate increases.
“It’s a 2 percent carve-out with no real regulatory oversight,” Senate budget chief J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, said after the measure didn’t get heard by his committee this week. “I think that’s not ideal.”
Supporters say it will help the state bring multiple megawatts’ worth of renewable energy projects online quickly — something utilites are unlikely to do without incentives, because renewable power tends to be more expensive.
Alexander said he understood that goal, but was cautious about giving utilities such wide latitude to invest in potentially costly projects at their customers’ expense without more regulatory scrutiny. He said the bill’s sponsor, Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Wellington, is considering changes that would give the state’s Public Service Commission more control over the rate increases.
Right now, the measure “sounds pretty good on the surface,” Alexander said, but for some utilities, 2 percent can be “a heckuva lot of money.”
For FPL, the state’s largest utility, the arrangement could be worth as much as $203 million a year. The average FPL customer’s monthly bill could rise by $2.40 to pay for solar and biomass projects. For other utilities, the cost to customers would be higher, but some, like Progress Energy, the state’s second-largest investor-owned utility, have already said they aren’t interested.
The Florida House’s version of the billl was put on hold earlier this week after a coalition of business groups, as well as the tea party-affiliated Americans for Prosperity, began mounting opposition.