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PSC: UTILITY MUST PAY REFUNDS

Progress Energy customers are due $13.8M, the regulatory agency says in a 4-1 vote.

The Public Service Commission voted 4-1 Tuesday to require Progress Energy to refund $13.8-million to its customers.

At issue is whether Progress Energy bought the cheapest coal available for generators at its Crystal River power plant. The commission found that Progress did not act prudently in buying a more expensive type of coal. The refund is based on an estimate by commission staff of how much customers would have saved from 2003 to 2005 if Progress had purchased cheaper coal.

"We did something good for the ratepayers in the state of Florida," said Commissioner Matthew Carter.

C.J. Drake, spokesman for Progress Energy, said, "We are disappointed in the commission's decision." Drake said the utility is "assessing its options," including an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.

If a refund takes place, it would be subtracted from the fuel cost customers see on their bills, Drake said. Progress Energy spent more than $2-billion this year on fuel for its Florida customers.

Commissioner Katrina McMurrian cast the lone dissenting vote, saying that she believed Progress acted prudently.

The utility argued that cheaper coal would have produced less power, wiping out any savings.

Progress Energy Florida, based in St. Petersburg, supplies power to nearly 1.7-million customers in 35 counties. It has 14 power plants with a capacity of producing 9,000 megawatts of electricity. It is owned by Progress Energy, which is based in Raleigh, N.C.

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at (813) 225-3117 or aloder@sptimes.com.

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