When I bring up “energy” your first thought might be “coffee,” because you’re tired and feel you need an energy boost.
It also might be something negative about a recent bill. But the infrastructure of “power” is a lot larger than the lights in your home or what keeps your smartphone charged.
To understand the topic better, I reached out to the two energy providers, in the Tampa Bay area, to find out what is top of mind in their industry and what issues are facing our region as we move into the new year.
Here’s Tampa Bay Business and Wealth’s next installment of “Infrastructure 101” — Energy.
What is going on in your industry locally?
Tampa Electric intends to significantly reduce bills, next year. After record-high temperatures have driven up bills this summer, Tampa Electric is pleased that customers will soon get some welcome relief. Fuel costs have declined, since the high prices of 2022, and, as a result, we are expecting lower electricity bills in 2024.
What is TECO working on?
Tampa Electric recently completed the Big Bend modernization project. Now, the skyline of Apollo Beach will change as we remove two of the three chimneys at the Big Bend Power Station. The Big Bend Modernization project repowered Big Bend Unit 1, with state-of-the-art combined-cycle technology, and eliminated coal as that unit’s fuel. The project is part of the company’s strategy to reduce carbon and it will improve the land, water and air emissions at Big Bend as part of TECO’s legacy of environmental stewardship.
What projects or objectives are exciting to you this year?
Tampa Electric is significantly expanding solar power. By the end of 2026, Tampa Electric will have more than 1,600 MW of solar power, which is enough to power nearly 260,000 homes. At that time, solar power will be able to produce 17 percent of Tampa Electric’s energy – the highest percentage of solar power of any electric company in the state.
What are some issues the industry, in general, or TECO, in particular, is facing?
To ease the strain of high energy bills, Tampa Electric has:
Created a dedicated customer assistance team to connect eligible customers with financial assistance and to ensure they get the help they need.
Donated $1 million to the Share program, which helps qualified customers pay utility bills.
Streamlined the application for certain financial assistance programs and reduced paperwork.
Worked with thousands of customers to provide extended payment arrangements and waive certain fees.
Reduced fuel costs by $169 million, since 2018, because of our investment in clean, renewable solar power.
What’s going on in your industry locally?
As one of the largest utility companies in the state, we must be ready to meet our customers’ growing needs while continuing Florida’s transition to a cleaner energy future. At Duke Energy, we believe in a balanced pace of change while also maintaining affordability and reliability for our customers. Through cost management, and careful planning, Duke Energy has made thoughtful investments to significantly enhance service reliability and reduce emissions. We will continue to work hard to provide the best possible price for our customers and ensure safe, reliable, cleaner energy 24/7.
What are you working on? What projects or objectives are exciting to you this year?
The company is leveraging innovative technology, across our Florida service territory, to upgrade the energy grid, generate cleaner energy, improve reliability and help customers become more energy efficient. Some of these technologies include utility-scale solar, energy storage, microgrids, transportation electrification and self-healing technology, among others.
We believe solar and battery energy storage will evolve and play a significant role in how we deliver more flexible clean energy to our Florida customers, now and into the future. Since the late 1980s, the company has been advancing solar technologies in Florida. Our near-term solar generation portfolio represents over $2 billion of investment, about 1,500 MW of emission-free generation and approximately 5 million solar panels in Florida, by mid-2024. In Duke Energy Florida’s Ten-Year Site Plan, the company expects to have more than 4,500 MW of utility scale solar generating capacity online, between 2023 thru 2032.
Duke Energy’s vital grid investments are the foundation of meeting customer expectations. Modernizing and hardening the transmission and distribution infrastructure will help empower customers, maintain service reliability, avoid service interruptions and better prepare, and protect, against severe weather and potential cyber events. These investments will also pave the way as the company adds more renewable energy onto the grid and supports the continued growth of technologies such as battery storage and electric vehicles.
The company will also continue installing advanced smart technology that monitors and detects potential problems and schedules maintenance before an outage even occurs, as well as self-healing technology that reduces the frequency and duration of outages.
Much like the GPS in your car can identify an accident ahead, and reroute you around the incident to keep you on your way, self-healing technology is like a GPS for the grid. The technology can quickly identify power outages and alternate energy pathways to restore service faster, for customers, when an outage occurs.
During hurricanes Ian, Nicole and Idalia, self-healing technology helped to automatically restore more than 230,000 customer outages and saved more than 218 million minutes of total lost outage time.
What should our readers understand that, maybe, they don’t?
Duke Energy began serving customers in Florida since 1899, more than a century ago – and at the very foundation of our company is a commitment to serve our customers and communities. We serve approximately 1.9 million retail accounts, bringing electricity to more than 4 million people and businesses in 35 counties.
Here are some stats about our Florida infrastructure:
13,000 square miles of service territory.
Approximately 5,100 miles of transmission lines. Distribution system includes, approximately, 18,100 miles of overhead distribution and approximately 16,400 circuit miles of underground distribution lines.
30 power generation sites capable of producing approximately 11,000 megawatts of electricity.
Duke Energy has deep roots, in the communities we serve, with approximately 3,700 employees and, close to, 3,800 retirees in Florida. The company operates assets in communities across Florida, providing more than $140 million in property taxes to local governments. Since 2001, our economic development team has helped expand, or attract, 325 companies to Florida, more than 48,000 jobs and $5 billion in capital investment. Duke Energy’s economic development team has been nationally recognized, by Site Selection magazine, as a Top Utility in Economic Development, for 18 years in a row.
Creating Powerful Communities means powering the lives of our customers, and the vitality of our communities, with more than $4.5 million in charitable grants, in 2022, focused on education, environmental efforts, economic development programs and justice, equity and inclusion. Additionally, Duke Energy employees and retirees contributed $710,000 to Florida nonprofits through volunteer hours and financial donations. ♦