TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Looking to the future, Florida Power & Light has asked Florida Public Service Commission for permission to build a new $1.2 billion power plant at Port Everglades to help meet electricity needs in South Florida and limit air pollution.

“(The new Port Everglades plant) is the right project in the right location at the right time,” FPL attorney John Butler said.

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The plant would replace a 1960s-era facility at port and would start generating electricity in 2016.
At a projected cost of $1.185 billion, the new plant would be fueled by natural gas and be able to generate 1,277 megawatts of electricity. The old plant, which burned oil and natural gas, has a 1,187-megawatt capacity. It was taken out of service in 2010 but could be used again.

The Florida Industrial Power Users Group, which includes businesses that use large amounts of electricity, has opposed the proposal. The group’s attorney, Jon Moyle, argued that FPL could buy electricity from other sources to meet its needs, instead of building the plant.

“We don’t think that this is the right decision for the consumers and is not a decision that you should support,” Moyle told the commission.

FPL says the project would have a number of benefits, including helping meet the future power needs of Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Rene Silva, senior director of resource assessment and planning for FPL, said the utility otherwise could face costly projects to add transmission lines and infrastructure to bring electricity to the heavily-populated area.

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The company argues the technology involved in the plant would limit air emissions and, ultimately, would help hold down the company’s fuel costs — which make up a major part of customers’ monthly bills. The company also says the project would be more than $400 million cheaper than other alternatives, such as upgrading the existing Port Everglades facility or building a plant on another site.

Typically, utility customers pay for new power plants through base rates, after the plants start operating. FPL recently floated a proposal that might allow it to avoid a full-blown rate case before customers would start paying for Port Everglades and other new plants, though lawmakers have not approved that proposal.

Moyle told the commission Monday that he thinks the utility’s decision to build the Port Everglades plant was aimed at helping company shareholders, rather than customers. Investor returns are built into utility base rates.

The PSC did not vote on the issue Monday, after Moyle asked to file written briefs. Those briefs are due March 2, pushing a decision at least into next month.

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