by: Christopher Heath Updated:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - No more charges, but no refund.
That is essentially the deal Duke Energy customers will get after the Florida Public Service Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to accept a settlement from Duke regarding its Levy County nuclear site.
It ends the controversial payments that customers were being forced to make to pay for a nuclear plant that was never built.
“I think this settlement, as a whole, benefits consumers, and is ultimately in the public interest,” said Florida Public Service Commissioner Ronald Brisé.
The settlement between Duke Energy and several consumer groups ends the nuclear cost recovery fee that customers had been paying for years.
To date, Duke customers have paid $800 million for the Levy nuclear site; money that will not be refunded.
The company still owes $150 million, however, as part of the settlement, the company will write off that portion by passing the charge to shareholders.
“The fact that Duke is taking it upon themselves so much of that cost and writing off a great deal of the money is a tremendous benefit to the public,” said Commissioner Donald Polmann. “The settlement that has been provided here resolves years of controversy.”
Customers can expect to see a savings of about $2.50 (per 1,000 kw/hr) starting after the first of the year.
But bills may not be going down for customers.
As part of the settlement, Duke will recover $196 million in fuel fees, adding $5 (per 1,000 kw/hr) to customer’s bills.
Duke inherited the Levy County nuclear project when it purchased Progress Energy in 2011.
Progress had been using an industry-friendly state law, passed in 2006, to bill customers for future nuclear projects.
By the time Duke acquired Progress, the cost of the Levy project had grown while demand for electricity had stagnated.
Complicating matters, natural gas prices were falling, and nuclear was no longer as profitable.
These events culminated in Duke ultimately walking away from the Levy nuclear plan in August.
Duke says it is planning to use the Levy County land to expand its solar capacity.
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