Bill would postpone charge for Fla. power plants - WFLA News Channel 8

Bill would postpone charge for Fla. power plants

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George Philippidis, Ph.D. talks to Lauren Mayk about the bill George Philippidis, Ph.D. talks to Lauren Mayk about the bill
ST PETERSBURG, FL (WFLA) -

A proposed bill would change when utilities could start charging customers to build new power plants in Florida.

The bill, filed by state Rep. Dwight Dudley (D – St. Petersburg) proposes that a constitutional amendment be sent to the voters. Under the proposed change, utility companies could no longer collect money from customers for a new power plant while that plant is being built, but would instead have to wait until that plant is generating power.

"An electric utility may not recover in its rates the cost of a new power plant until the plant begins commercial operation," the bill HJR 693 says.

Dudley calls the current rule that allows the advance cost recovery a "utility tax."

"These are real costs and these are real dollars that are affecting consumers in Florida every day," he said at a news conference announcing his intention to file the legislation last week.

The issue of when utilities can recover their costs has gotten attention in Florida in recent years because of Crystal River III, a plant no longer operating in Citrus County, and a proposed plant in Levy County that was never built. Duke Energy customers are still paying for both of those projects under an agreement that results in a $3.54 charge on customer bills each month.

Duke spokesman Sterling Ivey said this proposed change would not affect that recovery. He also said the current rule allows utilities to recover their investment as they are making that investment, and that changing it could impact whether utilities choose to build the expensive nuclear plants in the future.

Florida is not unusual in the way it allows utilities to do cost recovery for power plants, said George Philippidis, an associate professor of sustainable energy at the University of South Florida.

Philippidis also said he was not surprised to see the new legislation.

"There have always been concerns since 2006 when the advance recovery fee legislation was passed about how well this process will work," he said.

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