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Power of Working Together for Affordable, Reliable Electricity

Jody Lamar Finklea's picture
General Counsel | Chief Legal Officer Florida Municipal Power Agency

     Jody Lamar Finklea is General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer for Florida Municipal Power Agency, a position he has held since September 2017. In this role, Jody is one of two executives and...

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  • Jul 8, 2021 11:45 am GMT
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2021-07 - Utility Customer Care, click here for more

Most electric customers only see their power provider as the source of their electricity. Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA) and its members do that, and more.

FMPA provides low-cost, reliable and clean power, plus value-added services to 31 municipal utilities in Florida. By combining the strengths of individual utilities with the strength of a statewide organization, like FMPA, Florida municipals can pool their collective resources to enhance competitiveness, gain economies of scale, and offer affordable electricity to customers.

 

Job One: Providing Affordable, Reliable Power

FMPA takes the job of providing affordable power seriously because we know the cost of electricity is important to customers. In Florida, power use is 20% higher than the national average and income is lower than the national average.

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For nearly one in three residents of our state, 10% of their average monthly income goes to their electric bill, so people are counting on their utility to provide low-cost, reliable electricity.

The good news FMPA’s power costs are the lowest they have been since 2004, and we have record reliability. In addition to that, FMPA offers other value-added services to its members that benefit their customers.

 

FMPA is More Than a Wholesale Power Provider

FMPA is more than a power source for its members. The same economies of scale that helps lower wholesale power costs can be used to provide common services in a better, faster and cheaper way.

We offer a variety of member services in the broad categories of distribution system operations, joint purchasing and technical training. In addition, FMPA provides professional support services in areas that include engineering, legal, regulatory compliance, communications, human resources, information technology, cybersecurity, finance, financial planning and more.

 

FMPA Makes Big Impact for a Small City

In 2019, FMPA and its members came together to help the city of Bushnell when the city had an opportunity to significantly expand its service territory.

Bushnell is one of the smallest municipal electric utilities in Florida with 1,100 customers. The expansion project increased the city’s electric customers by 50% to nearly 1,800 electric meters and nearly doubled its peak electric demand. It allowed the city to enhance its already reliable electric system and provide more opportunities to keep electric rates low for its customers.

Completing this major system expansion in less than two years was a challenge for the city staff, which numbers about 30, with six in the electric department. The city reached out to FMPA and other public power utilities to make this transition happen.

In order to transition customers in a cost-effective way, FMPA offered several vital services to Bushnell. We provided legal and strategic assistance for the territorial negotiations and then engineering support to design the system expansion. Another key step was arranging for financing to help the city fund the expansion. And FMPA’s governing board made a major contribution to this effort by creating an economic development incentive rate that offered a discounted rate on power sales.

FMPA and its members provided operational assistance to help Bushnell’s line crew install hundreds of poles and miles of wires. Eight public power utilities lent crews to complete the system expansion, including Tallahassee, Ocala, Gainesville, Kissimmee, Fort Pierce, Lakeland, Mount Dora and Leesburg.

It takes a variety of professionals to accomplish a project of this magnitude. FMPA’s public relations team worked with Bushnell to communicate with new customers, and FMPA’s financial planning team consulted with the city on budgets, costs and rates.

It’s not often that any utility—big or small—doubles its electric customers overnight. FMPA and its members were instrumental in supporting Bushnell to successfully achieve this monumental accomplishment in a cost-effective way.

Most states have wholesale power providers that offers services like FMPA. All wholesale providers can provide value for customers with the right plan and a clear vision.

 

FMPA Determined to Do More

By working through FMPA, Florida municipals can provide many benefits to customers. Although what we do is behind the scenes and invisible to retail electric customers, it makes a direct impact on their day-to-day lives.

We know our efforts impact millions of people in Florida and there is more we’re determined to do.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 8, 2021

This is really valuable insight, thanks for sharing Jody.

And for anyone wanting to dive more into this topic-- stay tuned for an upcoming episode of the Energy Central Power Perspectives Podcast featuring Jody and someone from one of FMPA's member utilities!

Jody Lamar Finklea's picture
Jody Lamar Finklea on Jul 25, 2021

Thank you for the opportunity to tell our story. FMPA is focused on our members/owners and their customers. FMPA's success is our members' success, making their communities a better place to live.

Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Jul 9, 2021

Jody, allowing a small utility to expand doesn't appear to be a service any of your customers would appreciate. Did it lower prices for your customers or theirs? What is the benefit they could see and count on.

    Florida is known as the Sunshine state  have you made it easier for your customers to add Solar and battery systems?   Have to buries power lines to make them withstand hurricanes and other weather better? 

    In Arizona our power company SRP provides power and water. In the desert they even have 7 large hydro dams to prevent flooding as well as provide 8% of the power 24/7 with no pollution. They also provide telecom service with fiber optics and host wireless towers at power distribution sites. Now that is added services.  

Jody Lamar Finklea's picture
Jody Lamar Finklea on Jul 25, 2021

When a small utility like Bushnell is able to add customers, particularly larger commercial customers - like Bushnell did - it improves the utility's load factor (i.e., how efficiently the system consumes (kWh), as compared to peak load (kW)). This improved efficiency translates to lower costs for all customers.

As for solar, FMPA has, along with 16 of our members/owners, developed the Florida Municipal Solar Project, which will provide nearly 375 MW of capacity across 5 solar farm sites in Florida. Two of those solar farms are currently in operation, with the other three to come online in 2023. Through this groundbreaking project (the largest solar project for a municipal utility), many of our cities are able to offer solar subscription services - allowing their customers to buy 25%-100% of their power needs from clean, emissions free solar resources, without the tremendous expense of adding rooftop solar to a building. This democratizes solar energy for everyone, including renters and those that cannot afford the capital expense of an individual system, and it maximizes the efficiency of solar generation through larger solar farms.

All of our members/owners, too, are focused on reliability, with undergrounding being a part of that effort. However, undergrounding in coastal areas is not always the best way to achieve greater reliability.

Henry Craver's picture
Henry Craver on Jul 15, 2021

I know Florida boasts some nuclear power but I remember seeing it was in risk of being decommissioned. Any development on that front? Do you think nuclear could play a role in providing cheaper and more reliable power in Florida?

Jody Lamar Finklea's picture
Jody Lamar Finklea on Jul 25, 2021

Florida does have a handful of nuclear plants. Those plants have a good history of production reliability, and 15 of our members/owners participate in a nuclear plant through FMPA's St. Lucie Project. With good investment and upkeep, and prudent financing of debt for these capital-intensive facilities, FMPA's members are now enjoying lower nuclear costs for this emissions-free resource.

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