Alex Glenn: Duke Energy Florida considers all options in developing its energy plan

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Duke Energy Florida considers all options when determining the best way to provide safe, efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sound electricity for our customers.

An article in Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times entitled “In Florida, Duke, always hungry to build, says existing plants aren’t viable,” failed to take several factors into account in drawing its conclusions. Earlier this year, Duke Energy Florida proposed building a state-of-the-art, highly efficient combined-cycle natural gas plant in Citrus County. The 1,640-megawatt (MW) plant would begin serving customers in 2018.

Construction and related activities are expected to add several million dollars to the local tax base. During the height of construction, 600 to 700 jobs are expected to be created.

To meet customers’ energy needs starting in 2016, as identified in Duke Energy Florida’s 10-year site plan, the company also plans to build two generators and upgrade four units which will increase efficiency and power output during the hot summer months. By 2017, these upgrades will add about 220 megawatts and allow for the retirement of two 1950s vintage steam plants on the Suwanee River. The 2018 Citrus County plant will also allow for the retirement of half of our coal fired fleet in Florida. If approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, the projects will benefit customers by ensuring reliable service and efficiency while reducing emissions.

Sunday’s Times article suggests Duke Energy should buy older, existing plants instead of building new, highly efficient plants to meet customer needs.

Take for example, the Osprey Plant, which was a focus of the article. The plant is owned by once bankrupt, out-of-state Calpine Energy Corporation. Calpine recently sold all of its power plants in the Southeastern United States, except one―its Osprey plant. Why was this plant not included in the sale? One reason is that the plant is effectively an electrical island. Access to the power generated at the Osprey plant would require, at a minimum, an additional $150 million investment and roughly three years to build the transmission lines needed.

The three plant owners referenced in the article did not dispute that Duke Energy Florida has a need for an additional 2,000 MW through 2018. Furthermore, even if the plants were cost effective, they would still not fully meet this need.

Several critics were consulted for the article –one of whom has been a paid witness against Duke Energy in a number of previous cases. The result is quotes that are unfounded in fact and articles that are misleading to readers who deserve unbiased reporting.

Solutions seem simple when you don’t have to take responsibility for considering every factor in ensuring nearly four million Floridians, who call this area home, have sufficient, cost-effective energy 24/7.

Telling only half a story leaves readers uninformed, and when the story is about planning for a secure energy future for Florida, we feel it’s especially important that opinions aren’t formed in the dark.

Glenn is the state president of Duke Energy Florida.