In a filing with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) today, Florida Power & Light Co. reported delivering another year of outstanding reliability for customers in 2009 and outlined plans for continued investment in reliability and storm preparedness in 2010.

FPL’s overall reliability last year continued to rank among the best in the nation as the company made significant progress on long-term efforts to strengthen the infrastructure. This year, FPL continues to focus on improving reliability and storm preparedness throughout the distribution and transmission systems that serve millions of Floridians.

“FPL customers are benefiting from industry-leading reliability and storm preparedness while paying the lowest typical bills of the state’s 55 electric utilities. We invest millions of dollars every year to help prevent outages and prepare for storm season. No system can be 100 percent storm-proof, but when outages occur, our employees respond quickly. I’m proud of their performance, in both good weather and bad, and their continuing commitment to delivering exceptional service to our 4.5 million customers,” said FPL President and CEO Armando J. Olivera.

Everyday Reliability

As measured by the industry standard, FPL customers on average experienced 82.4 minutes without power over the year, which is 46 percent better than the 2008 national average, the most recent data available. The average annual number of outages that FPL customers experienced improved to 1.40 in 2009 while the company’s average restoration time of 59 minutes per outage outperformed all major utilities’ 2008 performance nationwide.

One of the most frequent causes of distribution outages is vegetation – tree branches, palm fronds or other plants coming into contact with power lines. To help reduce and prevent outages and flickers, FPL cleared vegetation from more than 12,000 miles of distribution power lines and all transmission corridors last year. Overall, FPL invested more than $100 million in distribution reliability programs, including vegetation management, priority feeders and overhead line inspections, to keep reliability high for customers in 2009.

In 2010, FPL plans to clear vegetation along approximately 13,000 miles of distribution power lines and to maintain a similar level of funding for distribution reliability programs as in 2009.

Storm Preparedness and Infrastructure Strengthening Initiatives

FPL’s comprehensive storm plan focuses on readiness, restoration and recovery in order to respond safely and as quickly as possible in the event the electrical infrastructure is damaged by a storm. While the storm strengthening initiatives that FPL implements are designed to mitigate the impact of hurricane or tropical storm conditions, everyday wind, rain and lightning are among the most frequent causes of outages, particularly in Florida, so these improvements can also contribute to better everyday reliability for customers as well.

FPL remains ahead of its long-term inspection schedules for the system’s more than 1 million distribution poles and 65,000 transmission structures. Since 2006, the company has inspected nearly half a million poles throughout the distribution system, reinforcing and replacing them as necessary. Also, to strengthen the transmission system, FPL has replaced thousands of wood structures with stronger materials and converted nearly half of the system’s ceramic post insulators to more durable polymer insulators on transmission lines over the past four years. Today, the backbone of FPL’s transmission system is more than 70 percent concrete and steel.

In 2009, FPL invested $53 million to execute storm preparedness efforts, which included inspecting approximately 139,000 distribution poles; performing climbing inspections on 16,500 transmission structures; upgrading 3,200 transmission structures from wood to concrete or steel; and replacing more than 1,000 ceramic post insulators with polymer post insulators. In 2010, FPL plans to inspect at least another one-eighth of its distribution poles and one-sixth of its transmission structures. The projected cost of inspections and associated follow-up work this year is estimated at $68 million to $78 million.

In addition to preventive maintenance and storm preparedness initiatives, FPL invested more than $80 million in 2009 to strengthen the infrastructure serving 18 acute care facilities, 24 hospitals, 29 911 facilities, 27 highway crossings and more than 100 other important facilities throughout the company’s 35-county service territory.

FPL is prepared for this year’s storm season, the company noted in today’s PSC filing. Prior to the season’s peak, FPL will continue conducting storm-strengthening and storm-preparedness initiatives. The efforts include vegetation clearing from power lines serving all top critical infrastructure facilities, extensive storm-restoration training for employees, the annual company-wide hurricane dry-run exercise and the continued focus on improving outage communications, along with timely estimated restoration times for customers.

At the end of 2009, FPL had completed strengthening the infrastructure that serves approximately 75 percent of all hospitals, acute care facilities, 911 centers and emergency operations centers; and by the end of this month, FPL will have completed strengthening the infrastructure that serves every major hospital and acute care facility in its service territory. In 2010, FPL plans to invest another $45 million to $55 million to continue hardening areas of the system serving key facilities such as these. The company is currently finalizing its 2010-2012 storm strengthening outlook, which is due to be filed with the PSC by early May.

Additionally, in the coming years, FPL’s Energy Smart Florida project will further improve the grid that serves millions of Floridians, incorporating high-tech intelligence to make the infrastructure smarter and more efficient. Technology such as advanced “smart” meters will benefit customers during storms and year-round by helping FPL detect and address problems more quickly.