By Greg Giordano
With the recent merger of Florida-based Progress Energy and North Carolina-based Duke Energy into Duke-Progress Energy the contentious issue of advance nuclear cost recovery is back on the front burner. Senator Mike Fasano, who has for several years attempted to repeal the 2006 legislative authority that allows the utility to collect funds in advance of constructing a new nuclear power plant in Levy County, recognizes utility regulators in North Carolina for questioning the practice in Florida. In a July 17, 2012 letter to Chairman Ronald Brise’ of the Florida Public Service Commission, Senator Fasano requested that the Commission take North Carolina’s lead regarding Progress Energy’s advance nuclear cost recovery charges.
“I am pleased that the North Carolina Utilities Commission is holding Progress Energy’s feet to the fire this week as its members put Progress Energy’s former chief executive officer under the spotlight,” Fasano wrote. “Unfortunately, why did it take another state to question why Floridians have been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a nuclear power plant that may never ultimately get built or become operational? Why does North Carolina understand the problem within days of the merger occurring, and Florida still doesn’t get it after several years of complaints, media attention and consumer advocacy?”
“I strongly encourage you to follow North Carolina’s lead and bring Progress Energy before the Commission,” Fasano continued in his letter. ” It is high time that the utility and its executives get the grilling they deserve so that Progress Energy’s customers can get the answers they deserve. A projected decade or more of advance nuclear cost recovery dollars should not be the responsibility of the customers, it should be the responsibility of the utility and its shareholders. If the nuclear power plant is so important then the company should pay for it, pure and simple. It is long past time for Progress Energy to give an account and explain how it can take the financial burden for the nuclear power plant away from its customers.”
Within a day of receiving the letter the Public Service Commission chair responded with a letter of his own stating “with the unexpected change in the merged company’s leadership, Florida Commissioners want to confirm that Duke’s vision coincides with the Florida PSC’s work on behalf of Progress Energy Florida’s customers…I want to assure you that Florida Commissioners have carefully considered the concerns presented in your letter.”
The Public Service Commission has confirmed that Duke Energy’s chief executive officer Jim Rogers will be appearing before the PSC on August 13. Chairman Brise’ wrote: “during Mr. Rogers’ appearance before the PSC, Commissioners will seek assurances that Florida’s customers continue to benefit from the agreement under the merged company.” The agreement referenced pertains to expected refunds and rates expected during the coming decade or more of the proposed construction in Levy County as well as to repairs at Crystal River and alternative fuel cost adjustments.
Senator Fasano will continue to push the Florida Public Service Commission to hold Progress Energy shareholders to task for the cost of the nuclear power plant construction, not the customers.
Greg Giordano is Chief Legislative Assistant to State Senator Mike Fasano