LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Florida Power & Light Co., the largest electric utility in the state, is committed to reducing use of foreign oil by more than 99 percent, says President and Chief Operating Officer Eric Silagy.
Silagy, the 2014 chairman of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, was guest speaker Tuesday at a special lunch for the Manatee and Greater Sarasota chambers of commerce at the Lakewood Ranch Golf & Country Club.
Silagy told about 70 business people and invited guests FPL has reduced its foreign oil usage from 40 million barrels in 2001 to fewer than 150,000 barrels annually, recording its most fuel-efficient year to date.
Silagy said FPL now obtains 70 percent of its electricity from clean-burning American-mined natural gas and nearly a quarter of its power from nuclear energy.
The company recently completed several billion dollars worth of upgrades to its Florida-based nuclear power plants in St. Lucie and Turkey Point, and has filed licenses with the state for two new nuclear units at the Turkey Point site, projecting these new additions will save customers millions in fossil fuel costs.
"We added 520 megawatts
of power, which is the equivalent of building a medium-sized power plant, saving customers tens of millions of dollars a day. The power from nuclear ... produces zero emissions," Silagy said. "We are proud to talk about emissions, greenhouse gas emissions. Long before it was cool to be green, we were in this space."
Silagy said energy companies have an obligation to hit the emissions issue head-on and do it smartly.
"We must help the environment and leave behind a legacy that's better for the future generation and it's also really good business practice, particularly for a state like Florida."
Silagy said investing in new-generation technology for transmission and distribution grid modernization and introducing a Smart Meter program for residential customers to better control energy use help keep FPL customer utility bills the lowest in the state.
FPL also operates three emissions-free commercial-scale solar generation facilities in Florida.
"It's not the best place for solar, as some would have you believe, because the humidity and moisture in the air diffuses the sunlight, but it makes good sense and the price is coming down," Silagy said.
Neal Spirtas, senior vice president of the Manatee Chamber, called Silagy a dynamic speaker.
"He has a very good vantage point going on in the state," Spirtas said. "It's always a coup to get him as our speaker."
FPL, which has about 10,000 Florida employees and services about 4 million customers, is a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, which operates in 24 states and Canada. NextEra Energy is one of the leading North American utility providers of clean and renewable energy, investing in wind and solar energy to help keep company carbon emission rates lower than the national average.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.