U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor wants more accountability in use of state laws that allow utilities to charge customers in advance for construction of new nuclear power plants.
Castor is filing legislation that would require states to conduct analyses that show use of the advance fee would be a "good business decision" and that detail how the projects will be financed.
Prompted by reports in the Tampa Bay Times about how Duke Energy customers will pay about $1.5 billion for the now cancelled Levy County nuclear project, Castor and state Rep. Dwight Dudley have been working to change Florida energy policy.
"Consumers should not be on the hook for bad business decisions," Castor said during a press conference Friday at Dudley's legislative office in St. Petersburg.
On the state level, Dudley is drafting legislation that would repeal use of the Nuclear Cost Recovery Clause or what he calls a "utility tax" in Florida.
Dudley and Castor are also proposing legislation that would enable and support greater use of renewable energy such as solar power.
The lawmakers said they believe these changes would help save consumers money at a time when Tallahassee focuses more on building profits for utility companies. They said current laws incentivize utilities to build big box power plants for greater profits rather than use energy efficiency or renewable sources.
"The deck is stacked against consumers," Castor said. "We do not have a level playing filed here in Florida."
Last fall, Castor initiated a series of meetings with elected officials and a coalition of grass roots groups, pledging "to raise the profile" of the state's need to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
When it comes to solar energy, Florida already lags way behind sun-drenched California and Arizona, and also not-so-sunny states including New Jersey and Massachusetts. It will also likely soon trail neighboring Georgia. And Mississippi is instituting more aggressive energy efficiency policies and programs
Castor has said the state needs to focus on bringing more energy-efficient appliances to consumers and using smart technologies. One example, she said, is a Google program that allows consumers to monitor and control appliances and equipment over the Internet, even when they are away from home.
Castor said Florida needs to re-evaluate its energy policy so that more of these strategies can be implemented. Right now, she said, utilities make their money by building new power plants rather than finding ways to reduce energy consumption and take advantage of renewable energy to save customers money and reduce the carbon footprint.
Ivan Penn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2332.