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FPL President: How we can energize economic opportunity

Eric Silagy is President of Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, Inc. (NEE) and one of the largest investor-owned electric utilities in the nation. The following is an excerpt from a keynote speech he delivered to the Palm Beach Strategic Forum on April 17, 2012:


In one way or another, we’ve all been asking a simple question: “How can we energize economic opportunity?”


That’s the same question people are asking here in Florida, across America, and really – around the world.


Our answers to that question will define the future. And the good news is: there are lots of ways we can answer that question constructively. But I’m going to focus on just three of them today.


I suggest we can energize economic opportunity by: investing in infrastructure; expanding educational opportunity; and by working together more effectively.


Over the three-year period from 2011 through 2013, FPL is investing approximately $9 billion here in Florida to strengthen and improve Florida’s electric generation and delivery system, and to maintain our strong reliability, all while helping to keep customer bills low over the long term and all through the use of fuel-efficient generation and innovative technologies.


…The combined fuel savings are tremendous. By 2016, our customers will save about $1.2 billion in fuel costs every single year. And every dollar we save our customers on fuel is a dollar that stays in their pocket.


Saving money for our customers is extremely important to us, but there are other benefits as well.


FPL’s investments in new infrastructure also reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and not in a small way. In 2001, we burned more than 40 million barrels of fuel oil to generate electricity, almost all of it imported from overseas.


This year, we’re projecting that we will burn less than 600,000 barrels. That’s a reduction of more than 98 percent in just ten years; which is a great benefit to our customers, when the price of oil once again is more than $100 a barrel.


…Infrastructure is a game-changer. And that’s why – everywhere we can, and every way we can – we must: remove barriers to private investment in infrastructure; make smart public investments in infrastructure; and promote innovation in infrastructure wherever and whenever we built it.


The second way we can energize economic opportunity is by investing in education.


…For grade school children, FPL sponsors science shows that visit about 100,000 students a year. For older students, we’ve created a solar education in schools program. Through this program, FPL has installed on-campus solar demonstration systems in a dozen schools, and we’re still doing more. We’ve provided curriculum to more than 200 teachers to help them teach their students about renewable energy, both the benefits and the challenges. And for young men and women ready to enter the workforce, we’ve created a Nuclear Power Plant Skilled Worker Pipeline Program. In fact, 76 employees at our two nuclear plants are graduates of this program.


…Let’s remember that education is more than merely expanding the horizons of individual students – as rewarding as that may be. Let’s remember that the education of one student can ultimately expand horizons for all of us.


Third, we can energize economic opportunity by recognizing that we are all in this together.


…Despite the headwinds we can all see before us, FPL remains incredibly optimistic about the future of our state, our country and our global economy.


That’s why we’re doing everything we can to keep our electric bill the lowest in the state, and among the lowest in the nation. And that’s why we are constantly looking for ways we can help encourage more companies to grow operations here in Florida.


To that end, and with the support of our regulators, FPL now offers a special economic development rate to businesses that add at least 350 kilowatts of new demand, as well as 10 new jobs (350 kilowatts, by the way, is about the size of a supermarket or big box retailer). Businesses that meet those criteria can get significant discounts off an electric bill that already is the lowest in the state, and well below the national average. And those savings can help offset the costs of starting up, expanding or moving operations to Florida.


…We know that economic development is no longer something that Floridians can take for granted. We can’t wake up every morning and watch another convoy of moving vans coming down I-95 and I-75. Population growth is much lower; and economic growth requires a lot more vision and effort than it did just a few years go.


We know many people in this room are working hard to grow this economy, and we want to help in every way that we can.

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