April 25, 2013

Senate amends nuclear fee bill

The Florida Senate on Thursday made minor changes to its plan to rework the unpopular nuclear fee on customer utility bills to tighten the oversight of the state’s utility regulators and make other changes with an amendment by Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz.

SB 1472 rewrites the nuclear cost recovery act enacted in 2006 that allows electric companies to impose pre-construction costs for nuclear projects. The amendment, added to the bill with no discussion, will give the Public Service Commission more discretion when reviewing the company’s justification for continuing to collect the nuclear fees from customers. It also requires that if Progress Energy of Florida Power & Light fails to show that it has committed enough money to a new plant, or if its intent is unrealistic, it can’t continue to collect the money.

The Senate amendment also prohibits Progress Energy and Florida Power & Light from collecting the nuclear fees after July 1 unless they have shown proof of their intent to develop the plant. The PSC has the power to determine how to interpret intent.

Since 2006, Progress Energy has charged customers more than $1 billion to expand the now-crippled Crystal River nuclear power plant and to start developing a new nuclear power plant in Levy County. The company terminated the Crystal River project but has kept $150 million of the money in profits from all its projects.

Florida Power & Light collected $530 million from the nuclear fee and used the money to finance expansions to its existing power plants at Turkey Point and in St. Lucie County. It has also proposed building two new reactors at Turkey Point but has not obtained a permit to do it.

Voter discontent with St. Petersburg-based Progress Energy’s troubled power plant has prompted four Tampa-area senators to take the more aggressive approach to revamping the law, although they have stopped short of repealing the proposal.

April 15, 2013

Senate committee grills, then approves, Edgar for third term on PSC

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee grilled Public Service Commissioner Lisa Edgar about the regulatory board's role in charging customers a nuclear cost fee Monday and then voted to unanimously to approve her for a third term.

Edgar, who is the commission’s longest-serving member, said she believes that consumers have been well served by the commission and the 2006 law that allows consumers to be charged a fee to pay for nuclear plant development in advance of the plants being built. 

“If those projects go online, then consumers here in Florida will have saved millions and millions, and maybe even billions, over the course of the project,’’ she said.

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April 11, 2013

After years of no action, House committee moves bill to modify nuclear fee law

A Florida House committee signaled its willingness Thursday to make official what has already happened in practice and passed a bill that will end the future development of nuclear power plants in Florida.

The House Energy and Utility Committee approved PCB 13-01 to prevent utility companies from charging customers for the development of nuclear plants before they obtain a license and precludes any new power plants from being eligible to collect the nuclear fees.

“This is only a start but, it should not go unnoticed this is a big start,’’ said Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, chairman of the committee.

Since the nuclear cost recovery statute was passed in 2006, Progress Energy has charged customers more than $1 billion to expand the now shutdown Crystal River nuclear power plant and to start developing a new nuclear power plant in Levy County. The company terminated the Crystal River project, does not have a permit for the Levy County project, but has kept $150 million of the money in profits.

Florida Power & Light collected $511 million and used the money to finance expansions to its existing power plants at Turkey Point and in St. Lucie County. It has also proposed building two new reactors at Turkey Point but has not yet obtained a permit from the federal government to do it.

Continue reading "After years of no action, House committee moves bill to modify nuclear fee law" »

March 27, 2013

As tides turn on nuclear fee, House leaders allow a hearing, hint at more to come

The Florida House broke its silence on the controversial nuclear cost recovery law Wednesday and, for the first time in years, allowed a workshop hearing into the controversial 2006 measure that allows electric utilities to charge customers for nuclear plants before they are built.

For years, legislators in both the House and Senate have filed bills to repeal the measure, alleging that it's a bad deal for customers, but the proposals never got a hearing. This year, three Republican senators have filed legislation to modify the law, the Senate conducted a hearing on the measure last week and the House followed on Wednesday.

The law has allowed Progress Energy to charge customers $1.5 billion for nuclear development costs before the plants go online.  Florida Power & Light customers paid $300 million for nuclear development costs that the company says will help pay for a 500 megawatt nuclear power expansion at its existing plant in St. Lucie County. The project will be completed this year and FPL plans to use the nuclear fee to pay for additional nuclear projects at its Turkey Point plants.

Continue reading "As tides turn on nuclear fee, House leaders allow a hearing, hint at more to come" »

December 13, 2012

PSC ready to sign onto a four-year FPL rate case deal

The Public Service Commission on Thursday agreed to award Florida Power & Light a $358 million base rate request that includes a series of rate increases over four years and rejected a call from the public counsel that the company scale back its rates.

After a morning hearing discussing the nuts and bolts of a proposed settlement, the five-member commission appears on track to vote 4-1 to modify the settlement agreement presented by the company, and allow FPL to received guaranteed profits of between 9.5 to 11.5 percent through 2016.

The settlement is less than the $378 million the company originally sought in its first settlement offer, but the profit level – which would guarantee a midpoint return on equity of 10.5 percent – is higher than the 10 percent the PSC staff recommended in a draft recommendation.

Commissioner Eduardo Balbis, who supported giving the company the 10.5 percent return on equity, expressed interest in demanding that the company also make a concession to collect at least $10 million less from consumers in other areas. No other commissioners would agree.

Continue reading "PSC ready to sign onto a four-year FPL rate case deal" »

Regulators to decide controversial settlement over FPL rates at hearing today

Florida utility regulators on Thursday will consider one of the most pivotal cases of their term — whether to approve a base rate increase of more than $543 million for Florida Power & Light without the consent of the office that represents consumers.

The proposed settlement would mean a $1 per month increase for typical customers next year and would allow the company to automatically raise rates again for two new power plants without the approval of the Public Service Commission in 2014 and 2016

The proposal has the backing of the state’s largest commercial power users, who would benefit from the deal.

But it is vigorously opposed by the Office of Public Counsel, the state agency charged with representing most consumers in utility rate cases.

Depending on how the PSC rules, the case “has the potential to change the way cases proceed in the future and, we think, not in a positive way,” said J.R. Kelly, the state’s public counsel.

FPL counters that “this has been a very thorough process and we think that the settlement is really the right path forward that benefits all of our customers and effectively locks in low rates while helping us deliver strong service for at least four more years,’’ said Mark Bubriski, FPL spokesman. Story here.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/12/12/3139457/psc-takes-up-pivotal-case-allowing.html#storylink=cpyStory here.

November 05, 2012

Florida response to Sandy includes Seminole Tribe and FPL staff

 Two of South Florida's largest businesses have reached out to offer their expertise in hurricane response to their bretheren in New York and New Jersey.

The Seminole Tribe of Florida announced today that, for the first time in history, it has deployed an emergency management team to assist the Shinnecock Indian Nation of New York.

Florida Power & Light last week not only deployed an estimated 860 employees and contractor workers to Virginia to New Jersey to help restore power to the areas hit by Hurricane Sandy, but the cpmpany also arranged to help many of those employees get an absentee ballot to vote while they are out of town.

"For those that did not already cast their votes prior to deploying, we’re coordinating absentee ballot requests and returns in the field,'' said FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski. 

The Seminoles, a 3,800-member tribe that owns the Hard Rock casinos in Hollywood and Tampa and five other casinos in Florida, sent two members of their emergency management division to Shinnecock Indian Nation in eastern Long Island, New York, to help them organize recovery efforts.

“This is the first time that we have been a part of the emergency management system as a conduit to provide assistance to another tribe,” said Jerry Wheeler, Public Safety Director for the Seminole Tribe of Florida in a statement. “As we work to assist the Shinnecock Indian Nation, we will not hesitate to expand our relief efforts to other entities that need assistance within our emergency management expertise.”

The Shinnecock Indian Nation, which has 1,400 members, experienced flooding of burial grounds and other areas, damage to homes and government buildings, debris and power outages. The Seminole Tribe hopes to help the Shinnecock's recover now and establish an effective emergency response system for the future.

Video: provided by FPL

October 30, 2012

Company says answers about Tampa's flawed nuke plant still months away

Those hoping for an answer by the end of the year on whether the busted Crystal River nuclear plant will be mothballed or repaired will just have to wait some more.

Duke Energy told a state Public Service Commission hearing Tuesday that it may not have a decision until summer 2013 because the company continues to evaluate risks of repairing the broken plant and continues to negotiate with the insurance company about its claim.

Under the terms of a previously negotiated agreement, the continued delays in deciding what to do about the plant mean customers will get a $100 million refund if Duke ultimately decides to repair it. The utility agreed earlier this year that it would provide the refund if it decided to fix the plant but did not begin work by Dec. 31.

Continue reading "Company says answers about Tampa's flawed nuke plant still months away" »

October 17, 2012

State utility advocate sues PSC over FPL's proposed settlement

The lawyer who represents the public in state utility cases on Wednesday sued the Public Service Commission claiming the proposed settlement agreement between Florida Power & Light and the state's largest utility users violates the constitution. Download OPC_Petition_for_Writ

"We feel it is an invalid settlement agreement because our office did not sign onto it,'' Public Counsel J.R. Kelly told the Herald/Times. The petition asks the Florida Supreme Court to halt the efforts of FPL to push through a settlement of its rate case that could cost customers more than its original rate request.

The state's largest utility offered up the deal just days before the Public Service Commission was expected to begin a hearing on its request to raise rates and collect an additional $690 million next year. Kelly and other lawyers representing all ratepayers immediately objected to the plan and urged the PSC to dismiss it, arguing it is a new petition that deserves a separate hearing.

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September 26, 2012

Utility watchdog prez: Florida PSC is 'most dysfunctional' in the South

The executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, a non-profit, nonpartisan energy watchdog group based in the Southeastern U.S., spoke out about Gov. Rick Scott's recent reappointment of Public Service Commissioner Lisa Edgar today at a meeting with The Miami Herald editorial board. He had some harsh criticism.

Edgar's reappointment was "very disappointing,'' said Stephen Smith, the group's director. Of the seven Southeastern states the group works with, he said, "the Florida PSC is the most dysfunctional."

He said that Florida's PSC operates "in lockstep with the companies they are supposed to regulate. We have not seen the Florida PSC this bad in the years I have been involved. I think that is an area where consumers are being poorly served by the appointments on the commission now.

"I think they are largely uninformed about many positions, and they are way too cozy with the companies they are supposed to regulate.''

Smith's organization is suing the state for what it calls the unconstitutional statute passed in 2006 that has allowed Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida to collect millions from customers to build nuclear power plants that may never be constructed. SACE argues that the PSC has allowed the utilities to shift the definition of what is allowed under the law so that they can continue to collect money from customers when the need for nuclear power plants has diminished.

The Florida Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the case Oct. 4.