FPL Will Close its Last Coal-fired Plant in Florida

The St. Johns River Power Park in Jacksonville, Florida, will close by early next year after the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) on September 25 approved a plan by the facility’s joint owners to shutter the plant.

Florida Power & Light (FPL) spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood in a statement said “This has been a great plant that’s served us well during the time that it’s been online, but now, there are more cost-effective and cleaner sources of energy that we can use.”

About 70% of the power FPL produces today comes from natural gas. The St. Johns’ facility, which imports all its coal from Colombia, is the last coal-fired plant in FPL’s fleet in Florida; FPL is still part-owner of the coal-fired Plant Scherer in Georgia, which was profiled in the July 2017 issue of POWER magazine.

PSC Chairman Julie Brown at Monday’s hearing to discuss the closure said the decision will get “an inefficient plant offline.” The plant’s joint owners, JEA and FPL, in March of this year asked the PSC for permission to close the 1,322 coal-fired plant near the Port of Jacksonville. At the time, JEA CEO Paul McElroy said the facility was “at its economic life’s end.”

The first of two units at the St. Johns plant came online in 1987, with a second unit entering commercial operation the following year. FPL, which owns a 20% stake in the plant, and JEA, the municipally owned electric provider for Jacksonville, had said they expected to operate the plant until 2052. But with low power prices and increased government regulations on power plant emissions, FPL officials a few years ago began weighing the cost of continuing to operate some of the utility’s coal-fired fleet, versus the cost savings from shuttering plants that were operating under long-term power purchase agreements.

FPL in 2015 got approval to buy and close the Cedar Bay Generating Plant in Jacksonville—it closed in 2016—and last year received PSC approval to shut down the Indiantown Cogeneration plant in Martin County, with that facility expected to close by year-end 2019.

The PSC in approving the closure plan for the St. Johns plant said the shutdown would cut the state’s annual carbon emissions by 5.6 million tons, and save ratepayers about 33 cents a month on a typical energy bill.

“Any time we have the opportunity to reduce the [carbon dioxide] 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 at Monday’s hearing.

FPL will pay majority owner JEA $90.4 million as part of the agreement to close the plant. FPL said it estimates the closure will save customers $183 million based on future costs related to the plant.

FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski in a statement said “This is a great example of how we are moving forward with big investments in affordable energy.”

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine)