FPL: Spreading the Blame

Florida Power and Light, who is not my favorite utitlity entity at the moment, who oversaw the loss of power to 3.5 million customers during hurricane Wilma (a brief, expected Category 1 event), and who just sought and received permission to raise its rates 20%, has been trying to determine why so many poles failed during the storm. After careful study, they have determined the culprit: BellSouth.

Preliminary results have sparked a growing argument about who bears — or shares — responsibility for South Florida’s largest power outage ever. FPL’s reports suggest BellSouth may hold a large responsibility. [snip] …28 percent of those [poles] studied — were creosote-treated. More than half of these (52 percent) were BellSouth poles, the FPL engineers reported. ”The majority of these poles [88 percent] had some amount of weathering/deterioration but we do not know if that was the main cause of failure as some of these were next to good . . . poles that also broke,” the report said.

Check the math – FPL’s attribution of “a large responsibility” to BellSouth applies to 14% of the total poles.

There was a lot of discussion about burying power lines and whatnot to reinforce the grid, but at this point I fully expect FPL to let its customers eat cake to whatever extent they can do so without the legislature disbanding them or taking them over. There’s already talk of making the PSC board an elected body, an idea being pursued by Attorney General Charlie Crist.

Something I haven’t seen yet, though, is to subsidize efforts to get off the grid. Solar panels did very well during the storm and South Florida would seem like a natural place for them – imagine heavy rebates for purchase and installation with money from FEMA. Of course, that would bite into FPL profits. Which, to me, would make it worth doing just for sport.

2 Comments so far

  1. Brook (unregistered) on November 27th, 2005 @ 4:08 pm

    Well, I have been checking in to decreasing my dependence on FPL for the past 4 years. I have a large warehouse space with plenty of real estate for solar panels on the roof.
    First of all Florida is way behind in providing rebates on this technology (California and Arizona provide the best assistance.) Going grid free is an expensive proposition. Besides the panels, you need batteries for your nite-time and cloudy day usage. The batteries are expensive and a pain in the butt to store (safely.) The most recommedned option for beginners is to install a grid-tie system, which generates power during the sunny days, and pulls from the evil FPL grid when the sun is not around. Most systems are designed to be oversized, with the idea that the you sell your excess power generated back to FPL during the day so that your electric bill is zero. (or as close as possible.) You have to generate a lot of power since you are a consumer and FPL charges you a retail price for the power per kw (Kilowatt), but when you sell it back to them you are a supplier and FPL only pays you at the wholesale rate 60-70% less per kw. (Thank you FPL!)

    The first step of this process was to find out if your power supplier supported a “Grid-Tie” system. So I called up my FPL representative. Since I have a commercial space I have a dedicated FPL account manager. After getting the run-around for a while I finally got a hold of my account manager and asked if FPL supported Grid-tie systems and what was the process to get started. After explaining to the person what I was talking about, I was told that they would check and get back to me.

    Well after calling again, and again, and again to the tune of 9-12 times over the past 2 years to the same office… I am still waiting on an answer from FPL.

    As Mel Brooks said “Its GOOD to be the king”

  2. Bob (unregistered) on December 7th, 2005 @ 1:40 pm

    FPL is not as bad as Progress Energy!

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