Ivan Penn, Times Staff Writer

Ivan Penn

A native of Washington, D.C., Ivan Penn joined the Times in July 2006 after more than 12 years with the Baltimore Sun. Penn covers utilities, energy and consumer issues as part of the Times' business team. He is married and has three children.

Phone: (727) 892-2332

Email: ipenn@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Consumers_Edge

  1. Angry Duke Energy customers look to Tallahassee for help


    The list is long. Too long.

    Dozens of calls and emails, all with similar customer complaints about Duke Energy Florida.

    Never had these ratepayers seen their electric bills as high as they did this month. $250. $488. $573.75.

    Stacey Blais of Clearwater wrote to say her August bill had reached $749.10.

    "I for one am outraged by my high energy bill, which has doubled since last year's bill," Blais said in an email. "I have been so upset about these high bills that I get ill and stressed out just thinking about it."...

  2. Apologetic Duke Energy will credit customers overcharged in meter issues


    Duke Energy Florida announced Wednesday that it would issue a credit to customers adversely affected by a change to its meter reading system that led the utility to charge higher electricity rates to some customers.

    "We apologize for any hardships and confusion we have caused our customers, and we will make this right," said Alex Glenn, state president of Duke Energy Florida. "We will continue to work with impacted customers until all credits have been issued. We are also taking steps to ensure that this does not happen again."...

    Duke Energy Florida says it is going to credit customers who were charged at higher rates due to longer billing periods, the result of a change in meter-reading routes.
  3. Duke apologizes for meter troubles, prepares remedies for overcharged customers


    Duke Energy Florida is reviewing options to help customers adversely affected by changes in its meter-reading system and may have an announcement as early as today about possible remedies.

    "As we have said for the last week, we have heard from our customers, legislators and the Public Service Commission and apologize for the unintended consequences that have resulted in some customers having higher bills," said Sterling Ivey, a Duke spokesman....

  4. In flip-flop, Duke Energy will buy existing power plant, not build one


    TALLAHASSEE — In a major reversal, Duke Energy Florida said Tuesday that it agreed to buy an existing, independent natural gas plant in Polk County and withdraw its proposal to build $190 million in peak power units of its own in 2016.

    The proposed agreement with Calpine Finance Construction Co. would allow Duke Energy to purchase the 10-year-old Osprey natural gas plant in the Auburndale area of Polk County. Details of the surprising deal were not yet disclosed, and its impact on ratepayers remained unclear during the first of two days of hearings held at the Florida Public Service Commission....

    The effect on customers from Duke Energy Florida’s decision to buy the Osprey natural gas plant in Polk County is not known.
  5. Duke Energy considering Pinellas land for solar farm


    ST. PETERSBURG — Duke Energy is exploring sites for a solar farm in Pinellas County.

    The energy company is looking for privately or publicly owned properties throughout its Florida service territory that could accommodate fields of solar panels that would feed power to the grid, company spokesman Sterling Ivey said.

    The Pinellas site being considered is about 22 acres of county-owned land off 119th Street between Ulmerton and Walsingham roads. The parcel is a former landfill adjacent to Heritage Village, the County Extension Office and the Florida Botanical Gardens. ...

  6. Under rising pressure, state utility regulator to call Duke Energy in to justify rate charges


    Responding to mounting pressure from state lawmakers, the chairman of the Public Service Commission on Friday said he is asking Duke Energy Florida to appear before regulators to address what some are calling an "unfair, unreasonable and unfairly discriminatory" rate practice.

    In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, PSC Chairman Art Graham said he wants answers from Duke about the impact of charging some customers higher rates while the utility revamps its meter-reading process....

  7. TECO electric rates to drop a bit


    Tampa Electric residential customers could see their rates dip by 1 percent beginning Jan. 1, if state regulators approve a proposed fuel cost plan the utility filed Friday.

    The Tampa-based power company said in a statement that projections in its filing with the state Public Service Commission show the average customer would pay $108.39 a month based on 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage or $1.22 less than current rates....

  8. State Sen. Latvala says Duke's billing strategy not 'moral,' urges reversal of additional fees


    Urging Duke to act as a "good corporate citizen," Pinellas County's most powerful state lawmaker called on the utility Thursday to abandon the idea of charging customers higher rates while it revamps its meter-reading process.

    Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said angry Duke customers contacted his office in the past couple of days, asking for someone to reel in a utility they see as incessantly taking advantage of ratepayers....

  9. Pegram out as GM at WFTS Channel 28


    Richard "Rich" Pegram III, vice president and general manager of ABC affiliate WFTS in Tampa, left his post Wednesday after seven years on the job.

    Pegram, 63, led WFTS Channel 28 as it surged in ratings in recent years. He joined WFTS after 26 years with top NBC affiliate WTHR in Indianapolis and CBS affiliate WTVR in Richmond, Va.

    WFTS Channel 28 is owned and operated by E. W. Scripps Co., a media conglomerate that includes such properties as HGTV, the Food Network and various ABC and CBS affiliate TV stations. A recent spinoff contains the company's daily and community newspapers....

  10. $5 fee fumble: Duke reverses course on man's payment plan charge


    ST. PETERSBURG — Carlton Dameron picked up the phone in disgust.

    He called a reporter Wednesday morning to say Duke Energy had charged him $5 for a payment plan on a bill that escalated more than 50 percent due to no fault of his own.

    Dameron was one of about 267,000 Duke customers facing unusually high bills this month because the utility is temporarily extending its billing cycle by as many as 12 days. The longer billing cycle — the result of changes in how meters are read — kicked some into a higher rate tier....

  11. Duke Energy shrinks meter reader routes, temporarily fattens some bills


    Marie Cox is paying extra in her Duke Energy Florida bill this month.

    It's not of her choosing. It's not because she's using more electricity than she typically does this time of year.

    She's paying more because Duke is reorganizing the way it reads meters. As a result, Duke is temporarily extending its billing cycle, typically a month, by as many as 12 extra days. Here's how it affects customers:...

  12. Billionaire environmentalist's group stages rally at Duke Energy's Florida headquarters


    Billionaire Tom Steyer took his message of disenfranchised utility ratepayers to the streets Thursday with the launch of a new grass roots coalition to campaign against Gov. Rick Scott.

    About three dozen people quietly gathered in the drizzling rain outside Duke Energy's St. Petersburg headquarters for the inaugural effort of the group Floridians for Fair Rates, an organization led by Steyer's political group NextGen Climate....

    Winnie Foster, a community activist and director of the Sojourner Truth Center of Southern Pinellas County, speaks Thursday at the rally at Duke Energy headquar­ters in St. Petersburg.
  13. Duke, always hungry to build, says existing plants aren't viable


    AUBURNDALE — The power plant is a decade old but in no way shows its age.

    "It looks brand new, doesn't it?" said John Flumerfelt, an executive at Calpine Construction Finance Co., during a recent tour of the facility. "Shipshape."

    His description is apt. Run by a 23-member crew that includes old Navy veterans, the plant shows like a well-tended ship. It is a highly efficient combined-cycle generator fueled by natural gas. Calpine built the "merchant plant" to sell power to public utilities. ...

    Duke Energy says it’s more cost-effective to build new power plants than buy the merchant plants that already exist.
  14. Political ad attacks Scott for failing to stop Duke's nuclear charges


    Duke Energy's failed nuclear ambitions became political fodder in the gubernatorial race Friday with an attack ad blasting Gov. Rick Scott for doing nothing to stop the utility from charging customers for its blunders.

    It was the first time that Duke's troubles entered into a statewide political fray.

    The ad, airing in the bay area and sponsored by NextGen Climate Action Committee, points to reports from the Tampa Bay Times about the $3.2 billion customers are paying for the botched upgrade at the now-shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant and canceled Levy County nuclear project....

    The ad, sponsored by NextGen Climate Action Committee, points to reports from the Tampa Bay Times about the $3.2 billion customers are paying for the botched upgrade at the now shuttered Crystal River nuclear plant and the canceled Levy County nuclear project. [DIRK SHADD | Times (2012)]
  15. $54 million consumer refund sought for Duke's canceled nuclear project


    Consumer advocates want Duke Energy Florida to refund $54 million the utility collected from customers for nuclear equipment that was never purchased.

    The advocates asked state regulators Monday to order Duke to give a credit in this year's bills for equipment the utility sought for the now canceled Levy County nuclear project.

    Duke paid the money to its then-contractor Westinghouse Electric Co., but the equipment was never purchased....