On the House docket for Thursday morning is a bill that has garnered more attention than consensus — regarding fees consumers pay for the pre-construction costs of nuclear power facilities that may never be built — although it does not appear that the law permitting these charges will be repealed in the process.
PCB EUS 13-01, sponsored by the House Energy & Utilities Subcommittee, and SB 1472, sponsored by Sen. John Legg, arise from concerns with a 2006 carve-out (366.92, F.S.) that permits utilities to begin billing customers for construction and startup costs for nuclear power infrastructure, even if the plant never gets built.
The impetus for the 2006 measure was to counter the greater risk and expense it takes to build nuclear facilities and to encourage nuclear plant construction, with the broader goal of reducing Florida’s reliance on fossil fuels and lessening the state’s carbon footprint.
Indeed, Florida’s five nuclear reactors provide between 12 and 20 percent of the state’s electricity and collectively have “reduced fossil fuel usage by the equivalent of 5 trillion barrels of oil or 30 quintillion BTU of natural gas (that’s 30 trillion million). Moreover, nuclear energy saved about $250 billion in avoided fossil fuel purchases, which was a cost that Floridians would have had to pay”, according to an April 8 op-ed in the Sun-Sentinel. The author further offers that had the energy produced by Florida’s nuclear plants been produced instead by fossil fuels, the difference would be more than one trillion tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Yet challengers contend these savings are off-set by utility surcharges paid by customers for future nuclear construction that will not yield actual return. To date, consumers have pitched in about $500 million for Crystal River Plant upgrades, and $1.5 billion for the proposed Levy plant — funds which would yield earnings of $150 million to owner Duke Energy even if the project is never built.
A Senate amendment offered by Sen. Jack Latvala and adopted on Wednesday would require the Public Service Commission to conduct a “comprehensive review” of the proposed Levy plant, including an evaluation of the need for the plant, its technology, fuel choices, and short and long-term costs to consumers.
Speaker Will Weatherford supports a review of the 2006 law but does not favor a total repeal. Tune in at 8am for more.