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Utility regulators scrutinize energy giants’ nuclear energy plans

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 by Dara Kam

In the wake of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, utility regulators will again start looking into an expansion of nuclear power in Florida and decide how much of the bill will be shouldered by rate payers.

Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy are asking the Public Service Commission to sign on off their proposals to pass off about $355 million in nuclear energy-related costs to residents and businesses. The money would go to upgrade existing power plants, including one in St. Lucie County, and two cover the costs of new nuclear reactors that may not begin operating for at least another decade.

Hearings on the nuclear cost recovery plans are scheduled to begin this morning at 9:30 a.m in Tallahassee and can be viewed live on the internet at www.floridapsc.com or The Florida Channel’s website at www.thefloridachannel.org. The meeting will begin with a discussion of which documents will remain secret.

Juno Beach-based FPL is asking for about $196 million next year to help upgrade nuclear plants in St. Lucie and Miami-Dade counties and to move forward on a plan to build two new reactors at the Miami-Dade site known as “Turkey Point.”

The energy companies and many state lawmakers the expansion of nuclear power is necessary to wean the state off fossil fuels and to save money for customers.

But attorneys for large businesses, consumers and environmental groups question the methodology the energy companies are using and whether customers will actually benefit in the long run.

The state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers, argues that FPL’s decisions to “fast track” the new reactors led to inflated costs – an argument FPL disputes.

If approved, FPL’s request would result in a $2.09 increase next year for residential customers, based on 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity usage.

- The News Service of Florida contributed to this story.

Utility regulators sign off on $62.7 million for FPL nuke costs

Friday, October 16th, 2009 by Dara Kam

The Public Service Commission just agreed by a 3-1 vote to let customers pick up the tab for $62.7 million of Florida Power & Light’s construction costs for new nuclear power plants.

Commissioner Nancy Argenziano casting the sole vote against the increase.

FPL customers will pay $0.67 for 1,000 kilowatt hours for the nuclear cost charges next year as a result of today’s vote.

The Juno Beach-based utility is also asking for a $1.3 billion base rate hike, but when the panel votes on that issue remains unclear.

Gov. Charlie Crist asked the PSC to wait until next year when his two new appointees to the regulatory agency come on board to vote on the FPL base rate hike and another $500 million base rate increase sought by Progress Energy Florida.

Argenziano, appointed by Crist in 2007, is likely to become chairwoman of the panel next year.

Even if FPL’s base rate increase is approved, customers’ bills will go down by at least $9 because of a drop in fuel charges.

Utility reg chairman Carter: “Just leave us alone.”

Friday, October 16th, 2009 by Dara Kam

Public Service Commission Chairman Matthew Carter wants everyone to leave him and his colleagues alone so they can get on with their jobs and has no plans to ask for an internal investigation into charges of possible conflicts of interest or bias against Commissioner Nancy Argenziano, he said today.

“Right now I plan on getting through this hearing,” Carter told reporters during a break in a nuclear cost recovery meeting now ongoing.

The panel is scheduled to vote later today on requests from Florida Power & Light Co. to charge customers $63 million for what the utility’s expenses on nuclear power plant construction and a similar $236 million request from Progress Energy Florida.

Yesterday, Associated Industries of Florida President Barney Bishop asked that PSC’s inspector general look into thousands of BlackBerry messages exchanged between Argenziano and her aide Larry Williams over the past two years. Bishop accused Argenziano of potentially breaking laws barring ex parte communications between regulators and the utilities and of breaking her oath of office in unflattering comments aimed at her colleagues.

Read about FPL’s link with AIF’s press release here.

AIF’s demand is yet another distraction for the panel also poised to vote on about $2 billion in base rate increases – $1.3 billion sought by FPL and $500 million by Progress.

Ten days ago, the panel turned down a $1.6 billion request from FPL to build a natural gas pipeline through 14 counties.

State Attorney Willie Meggs said recently that his investigators have found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing at the agency. And several internal investigations resulted in similar findings.
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