Progress Energy reports loss for Crystal River repair

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Citing a $288 million refund owed to its Florida customers, Progress Energy on Thursday reported lower earnings for the fourth quarter and the year in reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.

For 2011, the Raleigh-based utility, the parent of Florida’s second largest electric company, posted lower earnings when compared to comparable periods in 2010, the company said in a statement and filings with the SEC.

For the year, Progress reported earnings of $575 million, or $1.94 per share, compared with $856 million, or $2.95 per share in 2010. For the quarter ending Dec. 31, the company reported a loss of $76 million, or $0.25 per share, compared with earnings of $125 million, or $0.42 per share, for the same period a year ago.

Company officials cited moderate weather and the Florida settlement with business ratepayers and other consumer representatives for the downtick in earnings, but said the underlying market remains strong.

“When you take into account the nature of the unusual items, it is clear that our employees maintained excellent focus on providing safe, reliable and efficient services for our customers, which lays the groundwork for stronger financial performance in 2012,” Bill Johnson, Progress Energy chairman, president and CEO, said in a statement.

Leading the list of unexpected costs was an agreement reached in January between the company and several representatives of customers over costs incurred by the company for damage incurred at its Crystal River nuclear plant.

The Florida agreement, announced last month, calls for $288 million in customer refunds of what are known as “replacement power costs” related to repair projects at Crystal River. Botched repair efforts have significantly raised the cost of repair and lengthened the time the company must purchase replacement energy to make up lost capacity.

Under the agreement, a residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month would see a $4.93 increase in 2013. That customer currently pays $123.19 a month. The utility industry commonly uses a 1,000-kilowatt hour residential bill as benchmark, though usage and actual costs vary widely among customers.

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