December 2, 2020 (IEEFA) — The Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) has drafted an integrated resource plan (IRP) that is short on public accountability and technical details but long on fossil fuel dependence, according to IEEFA’s director of resource planning analysis.
The commission barely gave the public one week to read the document before a public hearing and has refused to release work papers and data underlying the analyses performed by Siemens PTI, the OUC’s consultant that drafted the long-range plan.
“It’s simply impossible to provide complete comments at this time,” David Schlissel, the IEEFA director, said in comments to the Orlando commission. “The proposed resource plan is a black box, lacking the information needed to verify its key results and conclusions.”
The lack of supporting materials makes it impossible to determine how the utility will meet goals of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 75 percent by 2040. No projected annual generation figures are provided for any of OUC’s fossil-fired units, and there is no data that shows how OUC actually will be able to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.
Already dependent on natural gas for electricity generation, the utility plans to convert its coal-burning Stanton Unit 1 and 2 to natural gas in 2025 and 2027. The dependence on natural gas could leave Florida consumers vulnerable to price spikes and supply disruptions caused by hurricanes and extreme weather events.
The Orlando utility’s emissions reduction goals also are less ambitious than they might appear. Although OUC wants to reduce CO2 emissions 50 percent by 2030, it’s already most of the way there, since it uses 2005 figures as a baseline. IEEFA estimates that the utility’s CO2 emissions already declined by 36 percent between 2005 and 2019, so it only has about 14 percent more to eliminate before reaching its target.
OUC claims that burning natural gas instead of coal will reduce CO2 emissions, but fugitive methane emissions caused by using natural gas are considered far more damaging to climate. Over a century, methane is 25 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2; over a two-decade period, it’s 86 times stronger.
Schlissel said the Orlando utility needs to release all materials and data used to justify the conversion of the Stanton 1 and 2 units. It should also consider issuing a request for proposals to replace them with cleaner alternatives before making a final decision to convert the plants to natural gas. The commission should also consider adopting policies that encourage distributed solar resources and increased energy efficiency, he said.
“It appears OUC is committed to maintaining its dependence on fossil fuels,” Schlissel said. “Their strategy will make it difficult to achieve the transition to no-carbon fuels.”
David Schlissel ([email protected]) is IEEFA’s director of resource planning analysis.
Vivienne Heston ([email protected]), +1 (914) 439-8921
The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) examines issues related to energy markets, trends and policies. The Institute’s mission is to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.