“Florida Power and Light Co. and other electric utilities in the state now can proceed with burying lines in your neighborhood, but it’s going to take at least 30 years to accomplish, and the price tag for customers is still a mystery.

The state Legislature approved a storm-protection bill last spring, signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, that allows FPL and other electric utilities to charge customers for putting neighborhood power lines underground.

In a meeting with the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board on Wednesday, FPL CEO and president Eric Silagy finally put a figure on burying neighborhood lines for his customers: $25 billion to $35 billion…

In a recent session to create rules for the program, some commissioners were concerned about whether they’ll have enough information to set electric rates, and how they’ll be able to tell whether expenses being billed under ‘storm-protection recovery’are different from those being charged through base rates — a mandate of the law.

FPL proposed utilities’ providing project and cost detail in only the first year of the three years of data requested by lawmakers, with FPL lawyer Ken Rubin telling commissioners projects could change year-to-year due to storms and reliability data, change-out of equipment, electrical load changes and customers’ acceptance of installing lines underground in a neighborhood.

Deputy Public Counsel Charles Rehwinkel told commissioners they should get as much detail as possible from the utilities upfront. ‘There’s so much money involved that I think the additional effort and cost to get the details is worth it and overrides any customer confusion,’he said.

Jon Moyle, who represents the Florida Industrial Power Users Group — big-energy users — said ‘both the Legislature and customers want clarity and a range of certainty about the rate impacts of the storm hardening plans.”

Mark Futrell, deputy executive director of the PSC staff, said in the rule-making session that he sees potential litigation if project details and expenses are not provided upfront.

But in the end, commissioners opted to give FPL and other utilities flexibility it asked for in detailing projects and costs.

Commissioner Julie Brown, responding to Futrell’s concerns, said, ‘I do feel there are plentiful checks and balances here in the public interest. … We’re going to have so much opportunity to review the projects and the costs associated. We’re going to get annual reports.” The proposed rules will advance for approval if the Public Service Commission receives no request for a public hearing by Oct. 28.”

— Marcia Heroux Pounds, South Florida Sun Sentinel
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