Friday, January 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Duke Energy gives its customers a break

After years of forcing its customers to pay for its nuclear energy mistakes, Duke Energy Florida is doing the right thing and sparing its ratepayers from paying the final $150 million cost for the never-built Levy County nuclear plant. The deal means that Duke and its shareholders — not the ratepayers who have little choice but to buy its electricity — will cover the costs to close the books on this bad chapter. The change of heart, which should have occurred years ago, could help Duke repair its corporate image and become more customer-friendly. It's about time.

Duke says the savings will amount to about $2.50 a month for the average residential customer. That's good news, although Duke, serving 1.8 million Floridians, will still charge some of the highest rates in the state.

The settlement is part of a plan to move past nuclear and to emphasize solar energy. Although roughly 75 percent of Duke's electricity is generated by natural gas, it will add more than 700 megawatts of solar generating capacity in the next few years. As a consequence, the proportion of electricity that comes from coal-fired plants will continue drop to 20 percent or so.

Duke also emphasizes that it is segueing into a higher-tech future with smart meters that will automatically alert the power company when a customer has lost power. Those meters also will allow consumers to easily monitor their energy usage and adjust their behavior in much the same way that a smartphone can text an alert when a user is approaching a data cap.

While Tuesday's announcement is good news, don't forget that ratepayers have already spent $800 million on a nuclear plant that will never be built. Blame both Duke and a lapdog Florida Legislature for that waste of money. More than a decade ago, enabling legislators passed the nuclear cost-recovery act that allowed Duke and other power companies to collect money in advance for nuclear plants becoming operational or, in this case, for one that was never built. The fallout from this folly made Duke radioactive to many of its customers, a hard lesson it has now learned.

Even so, remember Duke customers still will be wrapping up final costs for the broken and closed Crystal River nuclear plant for the next two years. Now the utility is looking to an energy future that doesn't include nuclear but increasingly relies on renewables such as solar to provide clean energy to its Florida customers. More important, it should now recognize that those who reap the rewards — shareholders and others — should also be the ones to shoulder the risk. Duke can become a better corporate citizen by no longer expecting its customers to pay for its mistakes. "We feel like the cost of Levy being written off is a small price to pay for moving forward," said Duke's Florida president, Harry Sideris. Well said.

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Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18