Image: Duke Energy Florida

Duke Energy plans to modernise its Florida grid and introduce new electric vehicle (EV) programmes in an agreement with consumer groups.

The plans, which have been filed for approval with the Florida Public Service Commission, proposes to implement a Vision Florida pilot programme with a cost not exceeding $112 million over the next five years to 2025.

The programme is proposed to comprise as a minimum up to four emergency relief microgrid projects, a floating solar pilot project at the company’s Hines hydro complex and an investment in some form of hydrogen power.

In addition, solar plus storage projects will be implemented that are intended to delay or avoid future transmission or distribution investments such as substation, breaker or line upgrades.

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The EV programme proposed, with an estimated cost of $62.9 million, includes the implementation of company-owned DC fast charging stations along with a fast charging tariff. Other elements are the implementation of a residential EV non-time-of-use tariff and a rebate programme for commercial customers that install charging stations.

“This agreement provides a path to minimise bill increases while continuing to make smart investments that will offer customers greater reliability, cleaner energy alternatives and innovative technology,” said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida state president.

“During these challenging times, it also provides rate certainty and clarity for Florida customers and communities regarding future adjustments.”

The agreement was developed over five months of negotiation with representatives of several consumer groups, including the state’s Office of Public Counsel, the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, Nucor Steel Florida and White Springs Agricultural Chemicals.

Other proposals include a new optional residential time-of-use rate, reduced hurricane cost recovery impacts to customers, removal of residential credit card fees for bill payments and accelerated retirement dates for Duke Energy Florida’s last two coal units eight years ahead of schedule, from 2042 to 2034, in support of the company’s carbon reduction goals.

Subject to anticipated approval by Q2 of this year, the agreement will take effect in January 2022 and will include base rate investments of approximately $5 billion over the next three years. The impact is expected to amount to an increase of up to 4% in average residential customer bills and up to 6.5% in non-residential customer bills in 2022, dropping to 1% and to 2% for all customer classes in 2023 and 2024.

Duke Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, serves approximately 1.8 million customers in its state service area.