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Regulators OK FPL’s plan to buy and close another coal-fired plant

FPL has gotten approval from state regulators to buy this coal-fired power plant in Martin County for $451 million. FPL plans to shut the plant down after 2018.
FPL has gotten approval from state regulators to buy this coal-fired power plant in Martin County for $451 million. FPL plans to shut the plant down after 2018. Palm Beach Post

Florida Power & Light, with an increased reliance on natural gas to generate electricity, got approval Monday to buy a second coal-fired power plant that it eventually intends to close.

Members of the Florida Public Service Commission, meeting for less than 30 minutes, supported plans by the utility to spend $451.5 million of ratepayers’ money to purchase the 330-megawatt Indiantown Cogeneration plant in Martin County from Calypso Energy Holdings LLC.

FPL says the deal is anticipated to save customers $129 million over the next nine years, as it will end a long-term agreement in which FPL was to purchase power from Calypso through 2025.

Public Service Commission member Ronald Brise said he supported the sale due to the “positive impact on consumer bills” and a projected reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions resulting from the shutdown of the coal-fired plant.

State Public Counsel J.R. Kelly, who represents consumers in utility issues, said it appears FPL is paying the lowest possible price for the plant, based on a review of the deal.

“The bottom line is that it’s going to save customers money, and that’s the right thing to do,” Kelly said.

FPL plans to shutter operations at the 250-acre site after 2018, a step that is projected to remove the annual emissions of 657,000 tons of carbon dioxide. The utility hasn’t announced future plans for the site.

“At this time, FPL has no specific plans for the Indiantown property,” FPL spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood said in an email. “However, given the property’s proximity to existing transmission and natural gas infrastructure, it could be a prime location for future natural gas and or solar generation.”

Gatewood added that the company hopes to complete the sale by the end of the year, with operations at the plant initially reduced to 5 percent.

With a third large pipeline being built to bring natural gas into the state and FPL planning to start operating a natural gas-fired plant in 2019 in Okeechobee County, the utility doesn’t see the coal plant as being economical.

Last year, FPL, which relies on natural gas for about 65 percent of its fuel, agreed to spend $520.5 million to acquire the Cedar Bay coal-fired plant in Jacksonville. The Cedar Bay deal is anticipated to eliminate nearly 1 million tons of annual carbon emissions while eventually savings customers about $70 million.

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