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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Regulators have begun hearing arguments about whether Florida Power & Light should be allowed to move forward with plans for a new power plant in Broward County, amid objections from a state consumer advocate and the Sierra Club.

The Florida Public Service Commission will decide whether to approve a “determination of need” for the $888 million project. The 1,163-megawatt natural gas plant would replace two old generating units at the Dania Beach site and begin operating in 2022.

Steven Sim, the utility’s director of integrated resource planning, was the first witness Wednesday and testified that the new plant would increase reliability and ultimately save $337 million for customers when compared to continuing to operate the older units.

But attorneys for the state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers in utility issues, and the Sierra Club said in opening statements that FPL has not shown that the new plant is needed to meet customers’ projected energy usage in 2022.

The Public Service Commission last year gave an initial boost to the project when it approved a request from FPL to be exempt from a requirement that could have forced the utility to seek possible alternatives to the proposed plant. The Sierra Club also objected to that request, contending it would allow FPL to ignore other options, such as using renewable energy.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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