Opposition to Progress Energy's proposed rate increases continued bubbling up this week amid public hearings across the state. Among the latest opponents: Mark Cooper, an economist and author on the financing of nuclear power reactors. Cooper told the Florida Public Service Commission that it is "not prudent" to proceed with plans for building new Progress Energy nuclear reactors in Levy County and a similar Florida Power & Light project near Miami. Cooper estimated it would cost $1.9 trillion to $4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear reactors than it would to generate the same electricity from a combination of more energy efficiency and renewables. Separately, the business-affiliated group Associated Industries of Florida intervened for the first time on a rate case, backing Florida Power and Light's base rate increase. Associated Industries did not take a stance "at this time" on Progress Energy's filings. Progress is seeking to raise its base rates 30 percent and wants to add roughly $3 to the average monthly bill to help pay for its planned nuclear plant. On Thursday, community hearings were held in St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Hearings continue Friday in Inverness and Ocala and wrap up next week before the issue heads to the PSC.
UTILITY CUSTOMER SATISFACTION: Both Progress Energy Florida and Tampa Electric were among the lowest-ranked Southern electric utilities in J.D. Power and Associates' latest customer satisfaction study. Their respective satisfaction index numbers of 619 and 615, respectively, trailed the South's regional average of 635. Progress' sister company, Progress Energy Carolinas, boasted the third-highest customer satisfaction rating of 657, behind only CPS Energy and Duke Energy Carolinas. It's not the only distinction between the two Progress entities: the utility's rates are 20 to 25 percent higher in Florida than in the Carolinas.