TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Public Service Commission approved plans Monday to close a jointly owned coal-fired power plant in Jacksonville, with supporters saying the move will cut carbon-dioxide emissions and reduce some customer costs.
The approval means that the St. Johns River Power Park, owned by Florida Power & Light and the Jacksonville municipal utility JEA, will close by Jan. 5.
Closing the coal-fired plant is expected to cut annual carbon emissions by 5.6 million tons, while saving customers about 33 cents a month on a typical bill next year, according to the commission's staff.
“Any time we have the opportunity to reduce the CO2 emission profile within our state … providing customers to see a reduction in their bill, is something we can all get behind,” Commissioner Ronald Brise said during a brief hearing.
Commission Chair Julie Brown also said the proposal gets “an inefficient unit offline.”
The St. Johns River Power Park dates to the 1980s, with regulators giving a key initial approval to FPL and JEA in 1981. JEA owns an 80 percent interest in the plant, while FPL owns 20 percent. FPL receives 20 percent of the power generated and is obligated to purchase another 30 percent.
Before the deal to close the 1,322-megawatt plant was announced in March, the facility was not projected to be retired until 2052.
The plant will be dismantled. JEA will continue “small” ongoing activities on part of the land, but no other future plans have been announced for the facility.
As part of the agreement to shutter the plan, Florida Power & Light will pay $90.4 million to JEA.
The Juno Beach-based FPL estimates the deal will eventually save customers $183 million by eliminating future costs related to the plant.
“This is a great example of how we are moving forward with big investments in affordable energy,” FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski. “Whether it's the solar plants that we're building or finding ways to work with utilities to shut down coal plants, these are big changes.”
FPL previously received approval from regulators for deals to shutter two other coal-fired plants.
In 2015, it received approval to buy and later shut down the Cedar Bay power plant in Jacksonville.
That was followed last year by approval to buy the Indiantown Cogeneration plant in Martin County, with that plant slated to close by the end of 2019.
In each of those cases, FPL had long-term agreements to purchase power from the plants and argued it could save money by buying and shutting them down.
FPL in recent years has moved heavily toward using natural gas to generate power and has built new plants that it says operate more efficiently than older facilities.
News Service of Florida