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Will Florida Utility Customers Pay Now for Future Power?

Florida ratepayers are left on the hook for failed nuclear projects. (Mark Goebel/Flickr)
Florida ratepayers are left on the hook for failed nuclear projects. (Mark Goebel/Flickr)
August 21, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A federal appeals court hears arguments this week in a case challenging a Florida law that leaves utility customers on the hook for speculative nuclear projects.

The controversial nuclear cost-recovery law passed in 2006, at a time when nuclear power appeared to be making a comeback, but things have changed with the rise of renewable energy.

Utility watchdog J.R. Kelly, public counsel for the Florida Office of Public Counsel, is asking regulators to reject the latest multi-billion dollar request by the state's largest utility, Florida Power & Light.

"We have a fundamental concern that ratepayers should not be paying profit on these costs when it is unknown if the facility is even going to be built," Kelly states.

The plaintiffs contend the nuclear cost-recovery law is unconstitutional and seek to recoup $2 billion they say utility customers have already paid.

FPL says it isn’t the right party to be sued – that it is following state law, so the State of Florida should be on the hot seat. But the plaintiffs say it's the utility collecting money from consumers.

Attorney George Cavros with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says ratepayers should be outraged over Florida's nuclear cost-recovery law.

"All the risk, all the costs, effectively fall upon their customers,” he stresses. “So, these utilities are encouraged to keep pursuing projects even when they don't make sense, because they can recover, and they're guaranteed recovery, essentially."

A federal district judge last year dismissed the case, prompting the plaintiffs to go to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL