Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Business

Consumer advocate seeks $54 million refund for Duke Energy customers

Florida's consumer advocate wants Duke Energy to refund $54 million the utility collected from its customers to purchase parts for the now-canceled Levy County nuclear project.

The state Office of Public Counsel filed a request with the Public Service Commission on Wednesday, asking regulators to require Duke to refund the money.

The public counsel's request is tied to a lawsuit Duke filed against the contractor of the $24.7 billion Levy project, Westinghouse Electric Co.

In March, Duke sued Westinghouse for failing to complete contracted work and refusing to refund $54 million paid by the utility's 1.7 million customers.

The public counsel filed the request to ensure that any money Duke wins in court goes to the utility's customers.

But instead of a refund, customers could be forced to open up their wallets, again.

Westinghouse has countersued for $512 million, stating that the utility still owes money for canceling the contract. Westinghouse says Duke benefited from design and engineering work for which the utility refuses to pay.

In Florida, Duke Energy customers already are paying $1.5 billion in their electric rates for the Levy project, though they will never see a kilowatt of power from the two reactors proposed at that site. If Westinghouse wins the case, it's not exactly clear who would end up paying the bill. Customers or shareholders, or a combination of the two, might have to pony up.

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