Largest Solar Program in the US Awaits Decision on Moving Forward

The two-day hearing on the proposed Florida Power & Light (FPL) SolarTogether tariff and program concluded last week. If approved by the Florida PSC, it will be the largest community solar program in the US - and help propel Florida into a leadership position on solar power development.

George Cavros | January 23, 2020 | Florida, Solar

The two-day hearing on the proposed Florida Power & Light (FPL) SolarTogether tariff and program concluded last week. If approved by the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), the solar program will add 1,490 MW of solar over the next two years and will be the largest community solar program in the United States.

A Novel Design

The program has a novel design that captures the projected economic system benefits of solar installations ($249 million) and provides 45% of the benefit to the general body of customers. The remaining benefit is reserved for customers that choose to participate in the program and provides certainty of a tangible economic benefit to them – which distinguishes it from other community solar programs that have come before the Commission for approval.

On October 9, 2019, a settlement agreement was filed in the case between FPL, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Vote Solar, and Walmart. The settlement agreement enhances the program by adding a low-income component that will allow qualifying households to receive an economic benefit from the very first month of participation. The Office of Public Counsel (OPC) continues to oppose the program.

A novel design shouldn’t be a roadblock to delivering cost-effective solar energy to a customer base that is increasingly demanding solar power. During the hearing, the commissioners asked a number of questions of FPL witnesses about the approach as one might expect on the rollout of a new program.

SolarTogether has already garnered significant interest through pre-registration. Over 200 commercial customers, such as large retailers and municipalities have preregistered which will account for 75% of the capacity of Phase 1 of the program. Beyond the positive economics of the program, large businesses are preregistering to meet corporate sustainability goals and municipalities are preregistering to meet carbon reduction goals. When the 25% of the capacity is opened up to residential customers, we can expect a similar high demand for SolarTogether for Florida families.

A Number of Benefits

SolarTogether delivers a number of benefits to FPL customers and the state.

  • The program is consistent with the Florida statute by expanding renewable energy in the state and will help propel Florida into a leadership position on solar development in the United States. It diversifies the state’s fuel mix, lowering our dependence on fossil fuels, while also insulating customers from fuel price spikes. After all, the fuel is free.
  • The program not only provides a tangible economic benefit to customers that choose to participate, but it also apportions almost half of the projected economic benefits to all customers.
  • It will maximize the customer experience by allowing participation with no upfront subscription fees, flexible subscription amounts, no cancellation fees, and will allow the subscription to stay with the customer if they move within FPL’s service territory.
  • In addition to meeting the enormous demand for solar power in Florida, FPL testified that the solar additions would meet FPL’s system resource needs in 2020 and 2021. Moreover, the 20 solar installations will drive economic development in the local communities where they are developed.

All these benefits are certainly in the public interest and weigh in favor of approving the settlement agreement. The parties’ briefs are due January 30th.  Several weeks later the Commission staff will provide a recommendation, and a decision by the full Commission could come in late February or early March.

Stay tuned! SACE will keep you updated on developments in the case.

George Cavros
This blog was written by a former staff member of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
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