Make us your home page
Instagram

At Progress Energy's final annual meeting, it's all in for nuclear power

Shareholders of Progress Energy gather Wednesday morning in the company's home town of Raleigh, N.C., for the last annual meeting before the merger later this year into larger Duke Energy.

Combined, the companies become the country's largest electricity provider and a top advocate of nuclear power — despite soaring costs to build nuke plants. The merger also comes just as the world rethinks the virtues of nuclear energy after Japan's nuclear disaster, the biggest since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.

For Tampa Bay area ratepayers, it's the latest tale of the bigger devouring the big. In 2000, Progress Energy gobbled up St. Petersburg's Florida Power, arguing utilities must get larger to compete. We hear a similar message in Duke's $13 billion-plus purchase of Progress Energy. Want nuclear power? Better get deeper pockets.

"If we look at the capital expenditures in front of us and if we want to be a player in new nuclear construction, which we think is important, we're just not big enough to do that efficiently," Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson told the Associated Press.

On their own, Progress Energy and Duke each have long rallied behind nuclear power. In the climate change debate, they argue nuclear power can cut air and water pollution produced by coal, oil and even natural gas — today's fuel of choice to generate electricity. They also say nuclear is key to achieving a much tougher goal: A big reduction in our dependence on foreign oil.

That, at least is the grand vision of the two companies, both based in North Carolina. The day-to-day reality is sometimes different.

A merged Duke-Progress Energy will lobby aggressively for such pro-nuclear aid as cheaper government loans and energy incentives.

It will seek the power to charge more consumers up front for the expense of building nuclear plants.

Florida lawmakers already allow utilities with nuclear ambitions to charge customers in advance.

Leery of Japan's predicament, North Carolina legislators recently rebuffed Duke and Progress Energy for seeking similar powers in their home state.

"Nuclear energy remains vital to the world's electricity needs," CEO James E. Rogers said last week at Duke's annual shareholders meeting. He promised safety modifications identified from Japan's crisis will be made.

Duke and Progress Energy want to build nuclear plants in North Carolina, South Carolina and in Florida's Levy County, north of the Tampa Bay area.

Duke already operates seven nuclear reactors. Progress Energy runs five, including one Florida unit at Crystal River in Citrus County. That one has been off-line and under repair since September 2009. (Progress Energy Florida, the St. Petersburg subsidiary, supplies the bulk of electricity to west central Florida.)

At Duke's annual meeting in its headquarters town of Charlotte, N.C., protesters ranged from environmental groups that opposed coal and nuclear power plants to tea party activists who complained that Rogers helped bring the 2012 Democratic National Convention to town.

Nuclear or not, one thing is clear: Whatever path Progress Energy takes, electric rates in the long term are likely to keep rising.

In 2002, Progress Energy Florida sold 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity for about $82. Now it's about $119. You get the general drift.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@sptimes.com.

At Progress Energy's final annual meeting, it's all in for nuclear power 05/09/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 9, 2011 7:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Construction starts on USF medical school, the first piece of Tampa's Water Street project

    Health

    TAMPA — Dozens of workers in hard hats and boots were busy at work at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive Wednesday morning, signaling the start of construction on the University of South Florida's new Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

    A rendering shows what the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute will look like when completed in 2019. Local officials gathered Wednesday to celebrate as construction begins on the facility, the first piece of the Water Street redevelopment area in downtown Tampa. [Rendering courtesy of the USF Health]
  2. Tampa Bay among top 25 metro areas with fastest growing economies

    Economic Development

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy among 382 metro areas in the country for 2016. According to an analysis by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Tampa Bay's gross domestic product, or GDP, increased 4.2 percent from 2015 to 2016 to hit $126.2 billion.

    Tampa Bay had the 24th fastest growing economy in the country for 2016. Rentals were one of the areas that contributed to Tampa Bay's GDP growth. Pictured is attorney David Eaton in front of his rental home. 
[SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  3. Tampa Bay cools down to more moderate home price increases

    Real Estate

    The increase in home prices throughout much of the Tampa Bay area is definitely slowing from the torrid rate a year ago.

    This home close to Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa sold for $3.055 million in August, making it Hillsborough County's top sale of the month. [Courtesy of Bredt Cobitz]
  4. With successful jewelry line, Durant High alum Carley Ochs enjoys 'incredible ride'

    Business

    BRANDON

    As a child Carley Ochs played dress up, draped in her grandmother's furs.

    Founder Carley Ochs poses for a portrait in her Ford Bronco at the Bourbon & Boweties warehouse in Brandon, Fla. on September 19, 2017. Ochs is a Durant High and Florida State University graduate.
  5. At Menorah Manor, planning paid off during Irma

    Nursing Homes

    ST. PETERSBURG — Doris Rosenblatt and her husband, Frank, have lived in Florida all of their lives, so they know about hurricanes.

    Raisa Collins, 9, far left, works on a craft project as Certified Nursing Assistant Shuntal Anthony holds Cassidy Merrill, 1, while pouring glue for Quanniyah Brownlee, 9, right, at Menorah Manor in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15. To help keep its patients safe during Hurricane Irma, Menorah Manor allowed employees to shelter their families and pets at the nursing home and also offered daycare through the week. The facility was able to accommodate and feed everyone who weathered the storm there. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]