New FPL natural-gas Riviera Beach plant goes online after three years of construction

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After $1.3 billion in renovations, Florida Power & Light’s Riviera Beach plant powered up today to produce electricity for the first time in nearly three years.

The iconic red-and-white 300-foot smokestacks of the nearly 50-year-old oil-fired plant near the Port of Palm Beach were demolished with explosives on June 19, 2011, before being dismantled.

The modern combined-cycle natural gas plant, with matching 150-foot tall smokestacks, began operation today, almost two months ahead of schedule, FPL spokesperson Bryan Garner told Susan Salisbury of the Palm Beach Post

Riviera Beach Next Generation Clean Energy Center operates on natural gas, consuming 33 percent less fuel per megawatt hour. Ultimately, the plant will save customers hundreds of millions of dollars over the expected 30-year lifespan of the plant.

Now that the plant is operational, FPL can start recouping construction costs from consumers.

Customers can expect to pay $2.40 more per month in the base fee to pay for the new plant, based on a residential customer who uses 1,000-kilowatt hours, Salisbury writes. The gross receipts tax will also increase by three cents.

Easing the price jump is a reduction in fuel charge by $1.20, making the overall increase only $1.23 per month in the first year.

Through the life of the plant, the costs will gradually decrease.

For the fifth year in a row, the FPL charges on a “typical” 1,000 kilowatt-hour customer continue to be the lowest in the state. Compared to the average price paid to other utility companies, FPL customers saved more than $320 last year alone.

For April, the average FPL 1,000 kilowatt-hour bill, not including local franchise taxes, is $101.70 per month. The bill will include charges for the new plant, Garner told the Post. The Florida average for the whole of 2013 is $122.24; the national average for July 2013 was $131.98.

The typical FPL customer bill is lower than it was five years ago, and down about 7 percent to the 2009 average.

FPL also claims the rates for business customers are competitive, one of the lowest in the state and well below the national average.

To spur economic growth and create jobs, FPL provides discounted electric rates to businesses. So far, 29 companies are participating in the program, resulting in 4,700 new Florida jobs.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.