Regulators Renew Backing of Solar Program

Posted By: Garnie Holmes Legislative/Regulatory ,

PSCThe state Public Service Commission on Thursday approved a revised decision supporting a Duke Energy Florida solar-power program, carrying out an order from the Florida Supreme Court. The commission last year approved Duke’s “Clean Energy Connection” program, which involves building 10 74.9-megawatt solar plants. But the League of United Latin American Citizens of Florida challenged the approval at the Supreme Court, arguing, at least in part, that the program would improperly shift costs and financial risks to the vast majority of Duke customers who would not participate.

In May, the Supreme Court issued an unusual order that required the commission to revise its decision approving the program. Justices wrote that the decision “leaves the court guessing as to the reasoning.” With little discussion, the commission Thursday approved a revised decision, sending the issue back to the Supreme Court. Utilities have rushed in recent years to build solar-energy facilities, but the Duke program has a different financial structure that involves some customers volunteering to initially pay more on their electric bills to help finance the projects --- and then receiving bill credits in the future.

The legal challenge has focused heavily on the financial structure, with opponents contending that the program would disproportionately benefit large customers that would help pay upfront costs and then receive future credits. But commission staff members, in a written recommendation that went before the commission Thursday, rejected the arguments raised by the group known by the acronym LULAC. “Staff recommends that the commission not accept LULAC’s characterization of the CEC (Clean Energy Connection) program’s bill credit feature as a ‘subsidy,’” the recommendation said. “Staff further recommends that (the) commission find that the program has established rates that are fair, reasonable and not unduly preferential.”

Article reposted with permission from The News Service of Florida.