Monday, June 18, 2018
Business

Critics hail 'modest' reforms to nuclear advance fee law

Gov. Rick Scott has signed the bill that toughens guidelines for utilities that want to collect money from customers in advance for construction of new nuclear plants.

Critics of the nuclear advance fee hailed the governor's move as a critical step toward guarding consumers' money. The advance fee has allowed utilities to collect hundreds of millions of dollars for nuclear plants that may never be built.

Neither Florida Power & Light Co. nor Duke Energy have committed to building the reactors for which they have been collecting money since as far back as 2009.

"We welcome the governor's signature on this modest bill, which is an important step in reigning in unbridled utility access to consumers' wallets," Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a nonprofit environmental group, said in statement.

"We remain concerned, however, that the Governor's appointments to the Public Service Commission continue to be captive agents of the large power companies in Florida," Smith said. "This bill will not work if the Public Service Commission does not work."

Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz who sponsored the legislation signed by the governor late Friday, agreed with Smith's view that the legislation did not go far enough.

"More work needs to be done in reforming the system, particularly the Public Service Commission and how we go about providing the long-term energy needs of our state," Legg said. "Unfortunately, a total repeal wasn't achieved and a refund wasn't achieved."

The PSC defended its handling of the nuclear advance fee law based on the way the legislation was crafted.

"On May 2, the Supreme Court of Florida unanimously upheld that Florida's Public Service Commission correctly implemented Florida's Nuclear Cost Recovery law in a case brought forth by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy," Cindy Muir, a spokeswoman for the PSC, said in a statement. "Florida's PSC will continue to implement the laws in the public interest as established by Florida's legislature."

The state's two largest utilities, Duke and FPL, propose to build two reactors each, but have not committed to do so. Still, the utilities have been collecting hundreds of millions of dollars from consumers in advance for the projects without any requirement to refund the money if the plants never get built.

Duke customers are paying $1.5 billion toward the Levy project, and the utility gets to pocket about $150 million, whether or not the plant gets built.

Duke is collecting $3.45 per 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage each month from its customers this year and will continue to do so through 2017, as approved in an agreement with the state.

The utility also spent hundreds of millions increasing the power at the now-shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant and still wants customers to foot the bill for the expenses, though they'll never get a kilowatt for it.

The legislation Scott signed into law states that if a utility cannot demonstrate that it plans to complete the construction of the nuclear plant, it will no longer be allowed to collect money. The utility has 10 years after it gets its license to begin construction or lose access to the fee.

And it must prove the plant is both economically "feasible" and "reasonable" to continue moving forward with the projects.

Ivan Penn can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2332.

Comments
Developer Grady Pridgen buys St. Pete’s shuttered Edward White Hospital

Developer Grady Pridgen buys St. Pete’s shuttered Edward White Hospital

ST. PETERSBURG — Edward White Hospital, closed four years ago because of declining revenues, has been sold to developer Grady Pridgen for $2.7 million.Pridgen could not be reached Monday for comment. City officials said he has submitted plans for rem...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

Private Florida firm buys Rent-A-Center in $1 billion deal

An Orlando private equity firm has purchased lease-to-own business Rent-A-Center in a deal valued at more than $1 billion.Vintage Capital Management put a bid in for the company on Friday: $15 per share, $1 per share above its previous offer. Rent-A-...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Hernando Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITAL RECEIVES AWARD: Oak Hill Hospital in Spring Hill was the recipient of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals that have prevented the occurrence...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Pasco Business Digest for June 22

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITALS RECEIVE AWARD: Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point and Medical Center of Trinity were recipients of Healthgrades 2018 Patient Safety Excellence Award, a designation that recognizes superior performance of hospitals t...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

Report: 40 percent of Florida property will be ‘highly exposed’ to flooding

One of Florida’s biggest draws is also one if its biggest liabilities — its coastline. A new report projects that Florida is at the greatest risk of any state for tidal flooding caused by rising sea levels. And Tampa Bay faces some of the greatest ri...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Tampa Bay gas prices keep falling

Tampa Bay gas prices keep falling

The summer reprieve in gas prices is continuing.After flirting near the $3 mark, Tampa Bay gas prices fell another six cents a gallon over the past week to an average of $2.65 for unleaded, a wide gap with the national average of $2.91 a gallon, acco...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

SAN FRANCISCO - The cold, steely arm of Fernando the Barista swirled the foam of my matcha latte, set it down gently, and waved goodbye from inside a glass case. San Francisco, 2018. Where you can get robot pizza and robot salad, and now, a robot mat...
Published: 06/16/18
Riverview’s commercial real estate prices rise as community booms

Riverview’s commercial real estate prices rise as community booms

RIVERVIEW — The basic economic principle of supply and demand defines Riverview’s current struggle with commercial real estate.With a lack of available affordable commercial properties and a booming population, demand currently exceeds supply in Rive...
Updated: 9 hours ago
St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

ST. PETERSBURG — A house in St. Petersburg’s Old Northeast is a finalist in HGTV’s Ultimate House Hunt contest. Built in 2007 in the Mission Revival style, the 4,000-square-foot home a block from Coffee Pot Bayou is among 12 nationwide in the "curb a...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

ST. PETERSBURG — Albert Whitted Airport wants to extend its main runway. But what would benefit the airport could also benefit the St. Pete Innovation District.Moving the runway would ease building restrictions around the airport, allowing the Univer...
Published: 06/15/18
Updated: 06/16/18