Florida’s economy is growing significantly, and Florida Power and Light President and CEO Armando Pimentel told the Club that whatever happens in the Florida economy affects its largest utility. The company serves more than 12-million people – over half the population of Florida – making it the biggest electric utility in the nation, too.
Mr. Pimentel said the company is working to solve the riddle of how to provide customers reliable power that is affordable. He said generating it with less emissions is hard to do.
“We have one of the lowest bills in the nation, roughly 25% to 30% lower on a national average than everyone else again. And that’s because we provide clean, affordable and reliable power,” he said.
One of the ways FPL will accomplish that is by the use of solar power. He said that solar energy is now cheaper than natural gas over a 30-year investment. By early next year the company’s 66 solar projects will expand to more than 100.
“It makes sense for our customers to reduce the amount of natural gas that we’re burning at Florida Power and Light and increase the amount of energy that we’re getting from solar. Texas and Oklahoma take their gas somewhere else, and we get free energy from the sun here in Florida.“
He says the federal Inflation Reduction Act provided production tax credits that save money for customers.
To back up the solar and wind generation, its affiliated company NextEra Energy Resources also has more battery storage than anyone in the nation. But resources are not limited to renewable energy. The company also drills for oil and natural gas and owns pipelines. Over the past 20-years, they have torn down old, inefficient natural gas plants and replaced them with modern ones that have saved $15-billion in fuel costs. They are also experimenting with using solar power to separate hydrogen gas from water to use as a fuel in what are now natural gas plants.
Mr. Pimentel said battery technology is critical to renewables and that reduction in cost will lead to more electric vehicles.
“Battery technology is going to get very cheap, very, very cheap. And once it does, it’s no longer going to be economical to buy gasoline powered cars.”
Mr. Pimentel said the company has increased customer reliability by replacing 94% of old transmission line structures with concrete and steel ones which are much more resistant to hurricanes and other storms. He said that during Hurricane Idalia less than 0.3% of their solar panels were affected.
FP&L also operates an innovation hub called 35 Mules to give entrepreneurs, many of them with energy or power projects, an opportunity to grow their ideas. The program helps build jobs across Florida and makes it an even better to grow and innovate. FP&L receives hundreds of applications a year and chooses only a few for the program.
“We provide them not only senior leadership, we provide them a little bit of money, guide them in the right direction to make sure that they can understand how to raise money for their venture and allow them to think much broader in terms of bringing a product out to the market. It’s been very successful.“
He concluded by addressing the strength of Florida Power and Light in an uncertain economy and increased costs of capital.
“I can tell you the fundamental business on both sides is still very strong, and it’s still very good. But the market is kind of scratching their head saying, ‘I’m not sure what to do with this cost of capital increase and what it means.’ So it’s going to take some time, in my view, for the street and analysts and investors to understand that the fundamental businesses are still good.”
(You can also view the entire Club meeting on YouTube.)