“We’re pleased to receive positive recognition by Fitch in their review of the FMPA St. Lucie Project revenue bonds. Fitch, a leader in the independent financial rating agency community, points out the progress we’ve made in improving our financial position over the past few years,” says Ed Liberty, Director of Electric Utilities at Lake Worth Beach. “Just as we’ve taken many steps to improve the reliability of our electric transmission and distribution system, we’ve restructured our debt and reduced operating expenses, which allowed us to deliver more competitive rates to our residential customers.” Ed Liberty points out that in August of 2017, the utility’s residential electric rates were ranked 24th highest in the state using 12-month averages; by August of 2022, the utility had improved to 5th in the rankings, according to the Florida Municipal Electric Association which publishes reports on rates for all electric utilities in the state monthly. Using 12-month averages tends to smooth out the effects of utilities’ monthly or quarterly rate changes due to changing fuel costs affecting utilities in Florida and nationwide. Lake Worth Beach’s electric rates last increased in September of 2022 to reflect higher fuel costs for electric production. Natural gas is the fuel source for approximately 50% of the utility’s energy needs, supplemented with nuclear, coal, and solar energy. Rate changes contemplated for January of 2023 were put on hold based on the observation that futures markets were indicating decreases in natural gas prices over the coming months, which would allow the utility to recover from the dramatic price increases experienced in 2022.
The City’s electric utility enjoys a high percentage of nuclear energy in its portfolio, which helps offset higher fuel costs for carbon-based fuels. It will be adding increasing amounts of solar energy to its portfolio starting later this year and continuously over the next three years to offset energy produced using coal and natural gas directly. The City’s electric utility recently presented its Integrated Resource Plan for the coming years, which affirmed the decision to eliminate energy from coal from its portfolio by year-end 2025 and called for continued additions of utility-scale solar energy projects using power purchase agreements that do not require an investment by the utility. “Utilizing a PPA structure and participating in a competitively sourced project that will yield hundreds of megawatts of solar energy plants constructed in Florida specifically for municipal electric utilities, combined with the increased tax benefits made possible by recently enacted federal legislation, will allow us to access solar energy at prices we could never achieve on our own,” says Ed Liberty. “Our strategy has been to reserve our borrowing capacity to fund continued improvements in infrastructure reliability and storm hardening while using PPAs at guaranteed prices to meet our energy needs.”
Lake Worth Beach Electric Utility Director