Article Courtesy of The Sun
By Marcia Heroux Pounds
Published January 12, 2018
Cities and neighborhoods that are working to put their power lines underground
will get a cost break from electric utility Florida Power & Light Co., due to a
Public Service Commission decision on Tuesday.
State regulators approved FPL’s petition to eliminate the cost of overhead pole
and line removal.
The change will be beneficial to cities
such as Fort Lauderdale, which has several neighborhoods
that want to install lines underground, and the island of
Palm Beach, which has begun the undergrounding process. An
FPL representative at Tuesday’s commission meeting said the
tariff change could be an incentive for more undergrounding
Juno Beach-based FPL said savings from the change would be
on a “case-by-case basis,” based on the size of the system
being converted and the value of the existing poles.
“FPL works with municipalities that are interested in
undergrounding overhead power lines,” said FPL spokesman
Under FPL’s currently approved tariff, municipalities pay
for the removal and remaining value of the existing poles
But with FPL’s plan to harden all main power lines within
five to seven years, the utility said it proposed the tariff
change to provide credits to municipalities that elect to
underground a main power line. FPL said both hardening
overhead lines and undergrounding improve reliability both
every day and during a storm.
South Florida cities are questioning why aren't more
power lines underground. Officials say underground power lines could
be expensive and challenging to repair.
Palm Beach Town Manager Thomas Bradford said that, as
a result of the approval, FPL will be passing on savings to the town, city
or neighborhood that pays to put power lines underground.
However, burying power lines remains an expensive venture.
The island project, for example, will cost $98.6 million,
financed through a special annual assessment of $1,191 for homeowners and $331
for condominiums, according to Bradford.
In Fort Lauderdale, several older neighborhoods have
installed, or are in the process of getting, underground lines. Nurmi Isles
already has underground lines, while ldlewyld, Riviera Isles, Las Olas
Isles, Seven Isles, Harbor Beach and Sunrise Key have submitted applications
to begin the undergrounding process, according to Chaz Adams, public affairs
manager for the city.
The project would be financed through special property assessments over 10
to 30 years.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said he hopes the change will “expedite
the process” of undergrounding for the neighborhoods. “It hasn’t moved as
quickly as we would like,” he said.
At an investor conference last fall, James Robo, chairman and CEO of NextEra
Energy, FPL’s parent, said that burying more lines was part of a corporate
plan to harden Florida’s grid.
Yet FPL has warned that underground power lines are generally more expensive
and more susceptible to storm surge and flooding, which can result in longer
outages after a hurricane.