Florida Power and Light (FPL) continues to seek authorization from Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to raise their fees. The rate hikes if approved some time in January 2010, could provide FPL and additional 1.3 billion USD in profits per year. During 2008, FPL made 1.6 billion in profits but their management believes these are not sufficient for their shareholders, and this is the reason why they continue to pursuit the rate increase.
Generally and traditionally, “what FPL wants, FPL gets”. But this time, the PSC is delaying the rate increase decision. Could it be that the times are changing? We certainly hope so. After all, until very recently it would have been unimaginable to have witnessed such failures of the housing industry, the financial sector and the auto industry, as well as impending health care reform. If conditions have changed for these core industries, reform for a monopolistic profiteering energy sector may also be on the horizon. FPL can do much to prevent unnecessary intervention by taking steps to improve on its own accord, especially as people grow weary and burdened by rising costs and flat or shrinking purchasing power..
The following article established some objections to FPL’s 2009-2018 Plan: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1746672/fpl_20092018_site_resource_plan_needs.html?cat=58, More specifically, this article addressed the concentration and increase of nuclear energy with two more reactors, insufficient solar energy production, and the usage of Fossil Fuels.
Some recommendations were also made in http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1750266/fpl_prefers_nuclear_energy_over_solar.html?cat=9 to research and develop the Solar Home Power Generator, and enable Florida homeowners to generate and supply electricity to FPL via net metering; and to develop and build up the energy storage technology and capacity This innovative approach would give Florida Homeowners a greater role in the production of Electricity using their sun roofs, and would become a positive catalyst for our economy. This modified business model would create a very strong FPL capable of becoming a successful international business player and not just a Southeastern USA monopoly. .
So far, no one in the media has addressed FPL’s reluctance to pursue innovative technologies to reduce their CO2 emissions. Why would we continue to assume that FPL is a leader in their field, when we fail to see what they are doing for the environment? This complacency does not support Florida’s economy and neighbors. Even grants and research support for our Universities to pursue the development of the Home Power Generator based on solar power is lacking. Although, we see plant modifications in FPL’s Plan, changing Oil consuming plants to Natural Gas, these as well as the other Coal burning plants, continue to burn non-renewable fossil fuels that pollute the environment and generate heavy Carbon footprints. FPL generates GHG which contribute to climate changes and no efforts are being made to replace Coal and Gas usage, which account for 66% of FPL’s fuel consumption in accordance to their Plan.
Please note that FPL management must be happy with their Coal and Natural Gas usage, and have no plans in the next 10 years to change these fuels. Although this is a company that has won three times the “Most Ethical Company” award granted by Ethisphere magazine, (see http://ethisphere.com/wme2008/ ) which take into account their innovation capability, FPL will apparently continue to use non-renewable fossil fuels, with all their ills attached.
FPL should consider the utilization of Jatropha Oil as the bio-fuel that would replace Coal and Natural Gas intakes. Jatropha is a small shrub which can be planted in marginal land. It is drought and pest resistant, and produces seeds that contain a high grade bio-fuel oil. The tree starts producing after the second year and can continue production for 30 years. Jatropha plantations are low cost, low maintenance, and an acre of land can produce up to 1260 gallons of oil per year. The jatropha seeds are crushed to extract the fuel. The crushed seed leftovers are rich in Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, and very good for making high quality compost that can displace chemical fertilizers and strengthen the health of other food producing plants. A compost facility near to its raw materials and compost utilization lowers the cost of the compost, facilitating the production of organic crops, and the reduction of chemicals in agriculture sector.
FPL could commission land owners in Florida to plant Jatropha, very inexpensively in land not currently used for crops. Jatropha is a tree that generates Oxygen, it can earn Carbon Credits, and it produces a very high calorific renewable fuel that could be an excellent substitute to fossil fuels. Jatropha Oil burns cleaner than fossil fuels, does not require a refinement process as ethanol, it is many times cheaper than ethanol. By growing it in the state, it would provide income to Floridians.
This idea is not new. Professor Fitzroy Beckford from the Univeristy of Florida has been studying the plant for several years and has recommended its usage. See http://lee.ifas.ufl.edu/AgNatRes/Pubs/SoyouwannagrowJatropha.pdf
Florida even has a company that can be used to promote the planting of Jatropha. See http://www.mydreamfuel.com/gift_tree.html.
Can the reader imagine the situation where, FPL bought bio-fuel from Florida producers instead of using Natural gas and Coal? This would improve our economy, reduce FPL Carbon emissions, reduce demand on fossil fuels and its price pressure, and establish a new model for other Coal, Oil and Natural Gas consuming plants, to consider changing their fuel intake.
Although, FPL’s management may believe they do enough for the economy by employing 15,000 people in Florida, they fall short of what they can accomplish with minor adjustments in their strategic and tactical approach. Small changes could displace fossil fuels in a few years, benefit people, generate some loyalty in their market, recover the leadership in their industry, and contain their GHG emissions.
So far, FPL has not seen the need to change their business nor their approach when they have an easy monopolistic business, and a favorable regulator and inspector. Under this scenario, all they need to improve profits is smart lobbying and sufficient advertisement and PR. With a good public perception, it will be easy to get politicians to side with FPL, thus, there is no need to modernize the business. Shareholders are happy because management generates and distributes profits, even though these are generated at the expense of the environment and consumers.
People in general, only have a voice through the Florida Public Service Commission. We hope the commission denies the rate hike and asks FPL to reconsider the many other alternatives they have to produce and distribute Electricity.
FPL needs to leave its natural arrogance behind. The Planet is in Peril, we are all hurting for jobs, for a sounder economy, and to stop the abuse of companies in every sector, which is becoming too heavy to bear. We are having a hard time and FPL plays games, threatens to increase our rates, spends money in lobbying and advertisements which only distort and delays the realignment of the company we need.
Note: The author has no vested interest in any of the firm here mentioned, or any hidden political agenda, other than providing an opinion to the commission and hoping they request FPL to considers other alternatives that improve their long term plans for generating electricity.