In 2006, when volatile natural gas prices stoked fears of steep increases in electric bills, it seemed sensible, perhaps even necessary, to charge customers in advance to help build new nuclear projects.
A lot has changed in eight years. Florida's gamble in creating a so-called "advance fee" for nuclear projects will cost consumers billions — for nothing.
The reality of those losses will play prominently in debate about the state's energy policies as the 2014 legislative session begins....
That a Democrat is leading the charge for more solar energy in the Sunshine State tells skeptics all they need to know about the prospects for sun power in the Republican-dominated Legislature.
Still, St. Petersburg's Rep. Dwight Dudley hopes his colleagues will open up the market for more solar power, essentially deregulating solar and eliminating the investor-owned utilities' monopoly control over renewable energy sources in general. And if his bill goes nowhere, he also is working to develop a citizens ballot initiative....
Lawmakers and consumer advocates on Monday called for investigations into whether the St. Lucie nuclear plant in South Florida is safe and whether ratepayer money was used appropriately to boost the reactor's power.
The questions came a day after a Tampa Bay Times story detailed how tubes inside the steam generators that help cool the reactor had abnormal amounts of wear.
The Times report also prompted a former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission engineer to say that federal regulators aren't using the right criteria to measure the damage. Until they do, the plant cannot be declared safe, he said. ...
Yet another Florida nuclear plant may be in trouble.
More than 3,700 tubes that help cool a nuclear reactor at Florida Power & Light's St. Lucie facility exhibit wear. Most other similar plants have between zero and a few hundred.
Worst case: A tube bursts and spews radioactive fluid. That's what happened at the San Onofre plant in California two years ago. The plant shut down forever because it would have cost too much to fix....
Jo-Ann Stores has filed a lawsuit against the owner of the Tampa Tribune that alleges the newspaper fraudulently inflated its circulation figures.
In its 10-page complaint filed Tuesday in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Jo-Ann accused the Tribune of two counts of fraud and one count of unjust enrichment for stating that its circulation exceeded 200,000 in ZIP codes where the retailer advertised....
A Tampa Bay area lawmaker wants to reform the state Public Service Commission by limiting members to two consecutive terms and requiring them to live in one of five districts the Legislature would create.
Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, said he hopes to foster more accountability for the regulatory body that oversees utility matters.
At issue is a widely held perception that the commission has become too cozy with the utilities they regulate. Some lawmakers have criticized the PSC for failing to aggressively scrutinize spending on nuclear projects....
The number of solar jobs in Florida grew 60 percent in 2013, raising the state's nationwide rank from 12th to seventh, according to a study released Tuesday.
Florida now employs 4,000 solar workers, an addition of 1,500 in a year, though the state has struggled to keep pace with other states in the number of solar installations. Florida ranks 18th in solar installations, down from 12th.
California employs the most solar workers by far with more than 10 times that of Florida, 47,000, according to the Solar Foundation study. California is followed by Arizona, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and Texas....
ST. PETERSBURG — State Rep. Dwight Dudley continued his campaign Thursday to repeal a state law that allows utilities to charge customers for new nuclear power plants before they are built.
Backed by a handful of supporters, Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, urged state leaders to stop the "utility tax" that has allowed Duke Energy to collect money from its 1.7 million customers for new nuclear power they will never receive....
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor wants more accountability in use of state laws that allow utilities to charge customers in advance for construction of new nuclear power plants.
Castor is filing legislation that would require states to conduct analyses that show use of the advance fee would be a "good business decision" and that detail how the projects will be financed.
Prompted by reports in the Tampa Bay Times about how Duke Energy customers will pay about $1.5 billion for the now cancelled Levy County nuclear project, Castor and state Rep. Dwight Dudley have been working to change Florida energy policy....
CRYSTAL RIVER — Peppered with a series of questions about the cost of decommissioning the Crystal River nuclear plant, federal regulators could not say whether current trust funds are enough for Duke Energy to avoid collecting more from its customers to complete the process.
An economist with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that based on the estimates and assumptions so far, it is believed that the $780 million Duke currently maintains in its decommissioning and spent fuel funds will pay for all costs during the 60-year project....
CRYSTAL RIVER — The public forum included freshly baked cookies, cheese trays, iced tea and a lot of questions about how safe it is to store spent nuclear fuel.
Duke Energy sent two-dozen blue-shirted experts to a public forum in Citrus County on Thursday to help answer those questions and allay fears about how the utility would decommission the county's now-closed nuclear plant.
The trade show-style presentations at the Plantation on Crystal River gave residents the chance to speak to the experts one-on-one. About 150 people peppered them with questions about safety, security and the prospects for another plant to replace the shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant....
A St. Petersburg lawmaker wants to end the public utility monopoly on selling power to consumers, as well as open competition for development of renewable energy in Florida. If successful, the move could ignite a wave of solar power installations in the state.
Rep. Dwight Dudley, D-St. Petersburg, is proposing two constitutional amendments that would repeal the 2006 nuclear cost recovery clause — which forces customers to pay in advance for nuclear power projects that may or may not get built — and create a market to allow renewable energy producers to sell directly to consumers....
Duke Energy's botched upgrade project that led to the permanent closure of the Crystal River nuclear plant is the gift that keeps on giving — to its shareholders.
For utility customers, it has become an ever-bigger lump of coal.
The latest: Duke gets to pocket roughly 7 percent of the $100 million its customers will pay to stabilize the reactor's broken concrete containment building....
Duke Energy wants to extend operations of its two oldest coal units — among the dirtiest in the nation — at the Crystal River Power Station an additional two years through mid 2018.
The utility filed a petition with the state Public Service Commission on Dec. 31 that would allow Duke to charge customers for costs associated with the continued operation of the units.
To comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements, Duke wants to use a reformulated type of coal that contains less sulfur, mercury and chlorides....
Over the next two weeks, Duke Energy customers will get a couple of chances to ask questions about the process of shutting down the Crystal River nuclear plant.
Duke will give its perspective Thursday during an "open house" set up similar to a trade show to provide information about the description, cost estimate and schedule for the decommissioning of the nuclear plant.
Then a week later, on Jan. 16, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a formal public hearing to discuss Duke's decommissioning plan with the public....