Broward News

Is FPL's New Solar Energy Program Another Joke?

Florida Power & Light Co. has announced plans for a new voluntary, community-based, solar partnership pilot program. The voluntary program would include FPL installing new solar-powered generating facilities in Florida communities, including Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. But it would be funded by voluntary contributions from FPL customers -- $9 a month -- who choose to participate in the pilot program.

FPL made $10 billion in revenue last year, and $1.3 billion of that was profit, but it still has to charge people extra to develop solar on the side?

FPL has touted solar programs for years. Back as far as 1998, it was asking for donations to fund solar projects. Yet today, according to its website, the power FPL generates at three sites is enough to power only about 15,000 homes. In the 2000s, FPL had a Sunshine Energy Program to which customers voluntarily contributed $9.75 a month for renewable energy, but the program was canceled when it was discovered after five years that the majority of the funds went to marketing and there was little actual solar development. In 2012, FPL had a solar rebate program for people who installed private solar systems -- but the refund money reportedly ran out in two minutes and went only to the few people who could type the fastest when time came to submit rebate requests.

Yet, FPL spun the latest news as a boon for those who wanted to support solar energy, while avoiding an increase of electric bills for customers who choose not to participate. FPL is required by law to provide electricity at affordable rates. The utility says it will present its new solar program for approval by the Public Service Commission, which regulates power plants.

President of FPL Eric Silagy released a statement saying the company is committed to the future of Florida clean energy.

"As the leader in providing the most solar power in the Sunshine State, FPL has long been committed to planning for Florida's clean-energy future, and we, along with our customers, believe solar should play an increasing role in Florida's energy mix. For customers who care deeply about advancing clean energy -- including those who may not have the ability or desire to install their own solar systems -- we are proposing to create a voluntary, community-based partnership that is designed to help grow solar in Florida without costing a penny for those who choose not to participate.

"We know that some of our customers have an affinity for solar power, but we also know that for a variety of reasons, many are not able to install it themselves. This pilot program will allow us, along with the PSC, to truly gauge customer interest in supporting solar power. Ultimately, any program we offer must be designed to benefit all of our customers, and this voluntary, community-based solar program is designed with that goal in mind."

The pilot program is projected to begin accepting voluntary customer contributions in 2015. Fort Lauderdale,Sarasota, and West Palm Beach are among the first cities chosen to implement the project. FPL customers can visit to find out more about the proposed new pilot program.

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Deirdra Funcheon