9 Investigates Duke Energy customers paying $1.5B for defunct power plant

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Duke Energy customers in Florida who have spent $1.5 billion for electricity that was never delivered are on the hook for another $450 million.

The money is going to two plants: one that hasn't lit a single light bulb in three years and another that will never be built.

Duke Energy said not only is the $1.5 billion is gone, but it plans to hit ratepayers up for another $450 million for plants that don't exist or don't work.

When the electric bill is more than they can afford, many central Florida families end up at the Salvation Army.

"There (are) a lot of households in Orange County that face that reality every day," said Nathan Emery with the Salvation Army.

The Salvation Army provides short-term and long-term assistance to families struggling to keep the lights on.

More than 1.5 million Floridians rely on Duke Energy to keep the lights on. Almost half live in central Florida.

Since 2006, all customers paying their Duke Energy power bill, including those who get help from the Salvation Army, are also paying for power plants that were either never built or stopped working.

For the last seven years the state has allowed Duke Energy to charge customers extra for the Crystal River nuclear power plant, which stopped working in 2009, and the Levy County nuclear plant, which doesn't actually exist.

"It doesn't seem logical to continue to have to collect," said Orange County Rep. Linda Stewart.

Stewart wasn't in the legislature in 2006 when lawmakers handed Duke Energy the authority to essentially pre-bill customers for projects.

Stewart said lawmakers should ask for a refund.

Duke Energy may still use the Levy County site for a natural gas power plant, but no decision has been made.

This year, the Florida house was considering a bill that would have required repayment of funds if plants are not built, but, amid pressure from outside groups, that language was stripped from the bill.