Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Business

Progress Energy deal for $288 million refund will temper customers' rate increases

TALLAHASSEE — Here's what Progress Energy customers should expect from a $288 million refund they'll get over the next few years: higher electric bills. But if a settlement between the utility and the Public Counsel's Office is approved, their bills will not go up as much as they otherwise would.

The average customer's bill on Jan. 1 is expected to increase $4.93 a month per 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage, from $123.19 to $128.12, subject to adjustments for fuel costs.

J.R. Kelly, the state public counsel who represents customers before the Public Service Commission, called that a win.

"Yes, there is some increase, but I think a big portion of this settlement is balancing that with what we could potentially have seen," he said. "We could have been looking at doubling that and in five years five times that."

The cost analysis came as part of Monday's public hearing before the PSC on the proposed settlement between Progress Energy and consumer advocates over the damaged Crystal River nuclear plant.

On Wednesday, the five-member commission is scheduled to vote on the agreement, which includes what a lawyer for the Florida Retail Federation called "the largest refund in electric utility history that we know of." The agreement is expected to win commission approval.

The settlement, announced last month after months of investigation into the cause of three cracks in Crystal River's 42-inch-thick concrete reactor containment building, addresses some concerns about Progress' multibillion-dollar nuclear ambitions and how its customers would pay for them.

Under the agreement, customers will receive a refund of $288 million spent to purchase alternative electricity after the utility took the Crystal River nuclear plant offline in fall 2009 to replace old steam generators. Progress botched the project, severely damaging the containment building. Current estimated repair cost: $2.5 billion.

The plant's future remains unclear because Progress said its insurer, the Nuclear Electric Insurance Limited, is refusing to "voluntarily" pay the full amount allowed under its insurance policy.

As another part of the proposed settlement, Progress negotiated the right to cancel the engineering, procurement and construction contract on its proposed Levy county nuclear plant.

Consumer advocates agreed they would not oppose canceling the contract while gaining agreement that future customer payments on the Levy project be limited to $3.45 a month for the average customer for five years. Those costs could have reached $20 or more under Progress' projected figures.

"The settlement agreement before you is fair, just and reasonable," said Alexander Glenn, a Progress lawyer.

It remains unclear whether the damages at Crystal River — the utility's only existing nuclear plant in Florida — will ever get fixed. Progress also faces multiple challenges to its federal operating license application to build two reactors on a 3,000-acre site in Levy County.

The latest will be detailed today by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, a citizen and environmental research and activist organization. In a filing with the Atomic Safety Licensing Board, a division of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, it accuses the state and the utility of violating Florida law by allowing Progress to draw water from the Cross Florida Barge Canal to supply the proposed nuclear plant. State law restricts use of the barge canal water to conservation and recreation.

A finding that Progress violated state law could bring more delay to the already off-schedule project and further drive up a price tag initially set at $4 billion to $6 billion. That figure has now reached at least $22.5 billion.

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

Comments
Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Passengers on fatal Southwest flight sue airline and manufacturers of plane and engine

Eight passengers who were aboard a Southwest Airlines flight that was forced to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia after one of its engines blew apart filed suit Wednesday against the airline, Boeing and the companies that manufactured the eng...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Former employee sued by Tesla says he was a whistleblower

Tesla sued a former employee Wednesday, accusing the man of hacking the automaker’s computer systems and stealing company secrets, shedding light on what chief Elon Musk had suggested was the work of a secretive internal saboteur.But the employee, Ma...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

Seminole Heights restaurant Mortar & Pestle files for bankruptcy reorganization

TAMPA — Mortar & Pestle, a fledgling Seminole Heights eatery with a mom-and-pop pharmacy theme, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Seacoast Bank was listed as the creditor with the largest unsecured claim: $1.4 million.The restaurant...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Could Lucky’s Market move in to Clearwater’s old Albertsons?

Lucky’s Market is considering a move in to the old Albertsons box space in Clearwater, according to preliminary plans filed with the city. Lucky’s master broker, Rick Lewellyn, was listed on an agenda as discussing renovating the existing property wi...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

Developer proposes Sprouts Farmers Market for Land O’Lakes

LAND O’LAKES – A Sarasota developer is proposing to turn a vacant Winn-Dixie store in central Pasco into a Sprouts Farmers Market or similar specialty grocer.Benderson Development filed preliminary plans Monday with Pasco County to redevelop the form...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Clearwater’s Clegg Insurance Group buys Advanced Insurance Brokerage

Clearwater’s Clegg Insurance Group buys Advanced Insurance Brokerage

CLEARWATER - Clegg Insurance Group of Clearwater announced on Wednesday it has bought Brandon-based Advanced Insurance Brokerage.The merger creates a firm with more than 2,000 customers and more than $10 million in annual premiums. Terms were not dis...
Published: 06/20/18
Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

Wine dinners, beer projects and more will wet your whistle this summer

FILIPINO FOOD: WELCOME CHISMISHave you been to the Heights Public Market at the 73,000-square-foot Armature Works yet? It’s the buzzy food market in Tampa Heights with more than a dozen vendors offering up everything from rolled ice cream to Cuban sa...
Published: 06/20/18
Citizens considers hiking homeowners insurance rates about 8 percent

Citizens considers hiking homeowners insurance rates about 8 percent

Citizens Property Insurance Corp.’s is weighing another round of hefty rate hikes.Staffers with the state-run insurer of last resort have proposed raising the average rates for homeowners by 7.9 percent — just under the legislative cap of 10 percent ...
Published: 06/20/18
A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay homes sales while prices keep rising

A tight supply cuts into Tampa Bay homes sales while prices keep rising

Tampa Bay’s two largest counties showed anemic home sales in May as prices continued to rise due to a tight supply.In Pinellas, sales of single-family home plunged nearly 12 percent from the previous May, the second-worst showing in a year. Prices, t...
Published: 06/20/18
Pinellas County files suit against companies who built Public Safety Complex

Pinellas County files suit against companies who built Public Safety Complex

CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Public Safety Complex was built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane, but officials now say the $81 million fortress has water leaks and cracked walls.The county filed a lawsuit this month against Harvard Jolly, the S...
Published: 06/20/18