Florida Power and Light and Progress Energy are charging their customers TODAY for reactors that they “might” bring online a decade or more from now!
What?! That’s right…
Listen to this radio spot:
By 2020 Duke Energy, formerly Progress Energy, could add $50 a month or more to your bill to pay for two new risky nuclear reactors in Levy County before the plant produces any electricity. Even if the reactors are never built, consumers won’t see any refund. Current estimates are over $24 billion and the project has experienced a shocking 8-year delay.
Florida Power & Light (FPL) is charging its customers now for costs associated with building two new reactors at their Turkey Point plant near Miami. Estimated costs have also soared to nearly $20 billion and the project is also delayed.
What is Nuclear Cost Recovery?
Nuclear cost recovery allows utilities to charge ratepayers in advance for nuclear projects. The legislature’s intent was to make nuclear projects more attractive to utilities. Boy, did that ever work! A report prepared by Synapse Energy for the Union of Concerned Scientists lists nuclear cost recovery as a primary force behind Progress and FPL’s willingness to pursue nuclear. And why wouldn’t they when all the risks of the project have been shifted from the utility shareholders to you, the ratepayers? In fact, without nuclear cost recovery, it is unlikely that any utility would invest in these financially risky projects. What’s more, Wall Street won’t finance them, so why should you?
How Did This Happen?
The Florida Legislature gave power companies direct access to your wallet with minimal accountability when they passed Senate Bill 888 in 2006 (see page 69 of linked document) and the 2008 Florida Energy Bill. Acting on that direction, the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) gave approval to the utilities in 2009 and again in 2010 to charge you in advance for hundreds of millions of dollars – in advance of delivering power – for these costly new reactors. In 2011, the legislature would not even consider an amendment that would end this scheme, despite the fact that there is diminished need for power in these tough economic times. The need for these new reactors is questionable at best, yet, in 2012, the utilities got approved for another ~$300 million, but Floridians are getting more vocal in their opposition. Currently, there is a Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality of the “nuclear tax,” which already has ratepayers on the hook for almost $1.3 billion.
What is Happening to Fix This Mess?
Some legislators are working hard to stop this madness. Former Republican State Senator Mike Fasano voted FOR the legislation in 2006 and now actively advocates for consumers by campaigning to repeal it. In 2010, Senator Fasano wrote letters to the legislatures in North Carolina and Iowa when they considered passing similar legislation. Senator Fasano is now Representative Fasano (R), representing Pasco county. He has teamed up with a bi-partisan group of representatives, including long-time champion against the nuclear tax, Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee), and has been joined by others including Dwight Dudley (D-St. Petersburg), and Mark Danish (D-Tampa). They proposed to repeal the statute during the 2013 legislature with HB 4003. That bill was never heard in committee. A Republican cadre in the Senate proposed a series of amendments with SB 1472, that passed in the Senate and the House, after much lively debate. While this is a step in the right direction, these changes don’t go far enough. Consumers in Florida have been fleeced, while the company and its shareholders take no risk at all. A repeal is the best solution.
It is hard to tell if Tallahassee is ready to come together to make a repeal happen, but we are tuning in eagerly and hoping for progress! Check out our TAKE ACTION page for ways you can help!