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Nancy Smith

FPL Official Wows Energy Crowd With Foreign-Oil Gotcha

October 14, 2013 - 6:00pm

If the first day of the Florida Energy Summit had one knock-your-socks-off moment, it was Michael DeBock's announcement that over the last 11 years, Florida Power & Light Co. has reduced its consumption of foreign oil by 98 percent.

"In 2001, we used 40 million barrels of foreign oil," said FPL's senior director of development. "I'm happy to report to you that in 2012, we used less than 1 million barrels."

The room burst into applause.

In fact, it was the only round of spontaneous applause during the whole of Monday's 19-speaker program.

It has all been made possible by Florida's "natural gas evolution," DeBock said. The company, with 4.6 million customers, has spent a decade modernizing and improving its efficiency, literally getting ready for gas. "Now 68 percent of our customers receive their energy from natural gas generation."

FPL's gas-generation family includes the Port Canaveral power facility, the Riviera Beach plant due to come on line in May 2014, and the facility DeBock believes will be the family overachiever, the just-under-construction Port Everglades facility.

In all, he said, the company spent $3.5 billion to achieve an overall 33 percent improvement in fuel efficiency and a 90 percent reduction in emission since 2001. Included in that is an expansion and enhancement of the Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear plants in Miami and Fort Pierce, respectively.

DeBock pointed out, as other speakers had, that Florida is No. 2 in the nation in consumption of natural gas, yet the state has zero facilities to store it. That means the industry must go out of state for its solutions. Reserves should be stored in-state for emergencies, he said.

Florida also produces little natural gas. So, at No. 2 in the nation, with little production and no storage, the state has a problem, he said. "We turn our eyes to pipelines. Again, we trail the nation."

In 2012, FPL issued an RFP to bring a third pipeline into Florida. "By mid-2017, the pipeline will be ready," DeBock said. It will come in from Alabama, through Georgia, to the heart of Florida just south of Kissimmee, terminating at FPL's Martin plant.

He promised 8,600 jobs to support construction, over $1 billion in tax revenue for local schools and governments and diversified infrastructure to make sure Florida has natural gas for years to come.

"And we can't stop there," he said. "We must always be integrating new energy technology into our mix."

Other salient points from speakers during Monday's summit:

Michael A. Beiser, commercial manager-biofuels, Motiva Enterprises LLC (headquartered in Houston)

"We're a 50-50 joint venture between Shell Oil and Saudi Refining supplying ethanol ... When we make an investment in an area, it's tens of millions of dollars ... Synergy Logistics just built a new ethanol hub for us in Port Everglades ... We're looking for something now in South Florida in the biodiesel line. ... We partner with the agriculture industry ..."

Eric Higgs, CEO, LumaSteam

"Sustainable energy solutions have to make money ... You have to have access to private capital. I've raised $7 million to date ... Our (St. Petersburg-based) company develops and manufactures breakthrough products for digital power conversion, control, and distribution. We have the lighting industrys most sustainable Intelligent LED Lighting Systems for commercial, residential, hospitality and exterior lighting applications. ... We're only three years old, we're in the hyperchange phase of our development, which I love ... We can design a product, build a prototype and install it in three days."

Jennifer Curtis, interim director of the Florida Energy Systems Consortium and distinguished professor of chemical engineering, University of Florida

During the afternoon, Curtis' Florida Energy Systems Consortium joined BioFuelNet Canada in announcing an ambitious collaborative agreement to develop cellulosic (from sugar) ethanol technologies and advanced biofuels. The partnership, she said, brings together experts from Canada, the U.S. and India to develop advanced biofuels technologies in national laboratories, top universities and industry.

The primary goal of the partnership is to collaborate on high-yielding sorghum, sweet sorghum, pearl millet, bamboo and switchgrass production techniques and the conversion of these feedstocks to liquid biofuels.

Reach Nancy Smith at or at 228-282-2423.

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