October 23, 2014

FPL, LCEC and Kitson Reach Agreement on Power

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

The owners of the Babcock Ranch development will give up their dream of operating an electric utility on their planned “city of tomorrow.”

Instead, Florida Power & Light will provide the electricity to the 18,000-acre residential/commercial project on the eastern borders of Lee and Charlotte counties.

In exchange for $11.3 million the Lee County Electric Cooperative will give up its rights to be the provider on the still mostly vacant property.

That’s the essence of an agreement announced Thursday to resolve a three-way standoff that started in March when the Babcock Ranch Community Independent Special District asked the Florida Public Service Commission for permission to operate an electric utility to serve the community.

That drew a scorching protest from LCEC, which since 1965 has had the legal right to provide electricity to the ranch.

If the commission approves the deal, the three parties will be able to go about their business.

LCEC spokeswoman Karen Ryan said the cooperative’s rate payers will get a good deal under the agreement, which calls for FPL to add a 6 percent franchise fee to the bills of customers within the ranch’s boundaries.

That money is earmarked for the Babcock district, but half of it will go to LCEC until the cooperative’s been paid $11.3 million.

Except for that, “It’s a straight pass-through to Babcock,” FPL spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood said.
Ryan said it’s a good deal for the cooperative’s members because they won’t have to carry the expense or risk of actually building the infrastructure to provide electricity to Babcock’s residents..

The $11.3 million “is all going to our members,” she said.

Babcock’s 16,000 acres are owned by Kitson & Partners, which plans to develop the land as a futuristic community with a heavy emphasis on solar power. FPL is building an array of solar power-generating panels on land donated by Kitson.

Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, said the arrangement approved in Thursday’s agreement will help further Babcock’s development.”Streamlining collection and distribution of power throughout the community utilizing FPL’s advanced ‘smart grid’ technologies keeps us on track to achieve that goal.”

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