Saturday, October 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: The high price of nuclear fantasies

The enduring Tallahassee myth that nuclear power is always cheaper has cost Duke Energy customers billions of dollars with nothing to show for it. A new analysis of the long-term cost of the proposed nuclear plant in Levy County — the kind that ideally would have already been done by regulators — should finally change the conversation. The Florida Public Service Commission, long the lapdog of utilities, will soon have clear authority to halt advanced fees for a nuclear plant that will likely never be built. If commissioners don't take action, they do not deserve reappointment.

The analysis in today's Tampa Bay Times, as explained by Ivan Penn, should leave no question in any regulator's or elected state official's mind that in today's energy economy, it is only the utilities that benefit from the 2006 state law that allows them to shift preconstruction nuclear costs to consumers.

The Times found that under no reasonable assumption does building the nuclear plant in Levy County make economic sense over the next 60 years compared with building two natural gas plants, each with a 30-year lifespan. None.

Even when the volatility of natural gas prices is taken into consideration, including Duke Energy's higher-than-government estimates of fuel costs, the nuclear plant is far costlier. Even when the price of adding pollution controls — which are not yet required — to the natural gas plants is included, the nuclear plant is still more expensive. And even lowering the rate of return utilities can earn from the advanced nuclear cost recovery fee — as the 2013 Legislature has proposed — doesn't span the gap.

As suspected, the only real winner from building nuclear instead of natural gas? Duke Energy and its investors, who could enjoy up to 10 times the profit over 60 years than they could from operating two consecutive natural gas facilities producing the same power.

The only way nuclear ever looks cheaper is if the construction costs are ignored. That's like saying a family should pick a new car based strictly on the cost of gas, not the sticker price.

With the aid of the Legislature, Duke Energy, which bought Progress Energy last year, has already shoved more than $1.8 billion in fees onto its customers for two projects: a proposed Levy County plant that Wall Street believes will never be built; and a planned expansion of the Crystal River plant that was ultimately shuttered after a botched do-it-yourself repair job.

Yet Duke Energy, along with Florida Power & Light, once again thwarted efforts to repeal the fee in the 2013 legislative session. Tampa Bay lawmakers did win a change that opens the door for more scrutiny by the PSC. Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign the law that expressly gives the PSC authority to deny requests for fee collections if the project's long-term economics make no sense.

It's time for elected officials in Tallahassee to be honest about who is benefitting from the nuclear fee and stand up for the Floridians who put them in office. It's time for the PSC to embrace its role as a protector of consumers, not industry. It's time for the fleecing to stop.

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Editorial: FBI should take a hard look at CareerSource

The scrutiny now extends to the state agency that oversees the local jobs centers
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Editorial: Toughen Florida’s building code

Editorial: Toughen Florida’s building code

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Published: 10/19/18
Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

Editorial: Those who fail to cast ballots in Hillsborough are running out of excuses

You wouldn't skip a trip to the gas pump, would you?Then don't miss the chance to cast your general election ballot, either, when Hillsborough County opens its many early voting sites Monday morning for a two-week engagement.If you do your homework a...
Published: 10/19/18

Editorial: Glazer Children’s Museum quickly regained its step

Jennifer Stancil was terminated from her $169,280 a year job last month as museum president and chief executive, a post she held for three years. Exactly why remained a mystery to those outside the museum.
Published: 10/18/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Trump should demand Saudis account for journalist

Editorial: Trump should demand Saudis account for journalist

Twenty-seven journalists have been murdered so far this year just for doing their jobs, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That number doesn’t even include Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident journalist who hasn’t been ...
Published: 10/17/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Restart selection process for Florida Supreme Court justices

Editorial: Restart selection process for Florida Supreme Court justices

The Florida Supreme Court reached the right conclusion by ruling that the next governor has the authority to appoint three new justices to the court rather than departing Gov. Rick Scott. That is practical and reasonable, and it reflects the will of ...
Published: 10/16/18
Updated: 10/19/18

Editorial: Housecleaning was necessary at Clearwater parks department

The theft of money and a hostile atmosphere show a city department out of control
Published: 10/15/18
Updated: 10/19/18
Editorial: Bilirakis mimics Trump, colleagues in misleading voters

Editorial: Bilirakis mimics Trump, colleagues in misleading voters

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis wants voters to believe he is different than his Republican colleagues in Congress and President Donald Trump. The Palm Harbor Republican says he pays more attention to local issues than to the president, claims he doesnȁ...
Published: 10/15/18
Updated: 10/16/18
Editorial: Answering questions about Hillsborough school tax

Editorial: Answering questions about Hillsborough school tax

The Hillsborough County school tax on the Nov. 6 ballot is a smart, necessary investment in the nation's eighth-largest school system. The 10-year, half-penny sales tax would create stronger, safer schools and a healthier learning environment for mor...
Published: 10/12/18
Updated: 10/19/18