by Matt Kempner
ATLANTA 4/13/16 — What do you call overruns on a project that’s more than three years delayed and at least $1.7 billion over budget?
Reasonable and prudent. At least if you are Georgia Power and you want customers to swallow every penny of the mistakes that would otherwise be the utility monopoly’s responsibility for its adventures in nuclear expansion.
“Every dollar, and every day, that has been invested has been necessary to complete these new units safely and correctly,” Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers asserted in a recent filing to state regulators.
The company uses the words “prudent” and “reasonable” a lot in the filing because that’s the legal measure of whether the extra costs can be pushed onto customers’ monthly power bills for the company’s troubled Plant Vogtle expansion.
by Russell Grantham
3/18/15 — Georgia Power has chosen a site south of Columbus where it may build a new nuclear plant sometime after 2030, according to documents filed with state regulators.
The company said it has not decided yet to build more nuclear plants in Georgia, but confirmed that it has begun preliminary studies for a possible plant on 7,000 acres that it owns next to the Chattahoochee River in northern Stewart County.
The rural county is just below Fort Benning and Columbus in west Georgia.
by Ron Hurtibise
MIAMI 2/24/16 — Florida’s two largest utility companies are the target of a lawsuit claiming a state law that authorized collection of $2 billion for construction of nuclear power facilities is unconstitutional.
The suit was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida by Hagens Berman, which describes itself as a “national class action and complex litigation law firm.”
The suit accuses Florida Power & Light, headquartered in Juno, and Duke Energy Florida, a subsidiary of North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp., of overcharging its ratepayers.
Relying on a 2006 state law that authorized the Nuclear Cost Recovery System, the utilities turned 6.4 million ratepayers into “involuntary investors in nuclear projects, charges them interest on their own money and never returns their ‘investment,” the suit contends. “When the projects are abandoned, the utilities keep the money and collect even more.”
2/23/16 — A law firm filed a class action lawsuit against utilities Duke Energy Florida (NYSE: DUK) and Florida Power & Light (FPL) alleging unlawful charges to fund nuclear power plant construction.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleges Duke and FPL of overcharging customers $2 billion since 2008 through electricity price hikes to fund the costs to build nuclear power plants in the state, though some of the projects have been abandoned. The suit seeks relief for customers of both utilities, including reimbursement from the companies for costs passed on to consumers to fund the projects, a declaration binding on the utilities that the state’s Nuclear Cost Recovery System and all nuclear cost recovery orders issued under it are unconstitutional and void, and an order ordering defendants from further charges.
by Curt Anderson
MIAMI (AP) 2/23/16— A federal lawsuit has been filed challenging $2 billion in fees charged by Florida’s two largest electric utilities for nuclear plant projects, some of which were never completed.
The proposed class-action lawsuit filed Monday seeks to stop the fees and recover unspecified damages for about 6.4 million customers of Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy. The fees were imposed on ratepayers under a law passed in 2006 by the Legislature and implemented by the state Public Service Commission.
The suit contends that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause by discriminating against other out-of-state energy producers and that it is pre-empted by federal energy and nuclear laws. It also claims Florida customers are improperly charged for nuclear projects that can be subject to huge cost overruns or that are never built.
by Robert Trigaux
TAMPA 2/23/16 — A class action lawsuit was filed against Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power & Light alleging the monopoly electricity providers force millions of Florida customers to pay unlawful charges in connection with their electricity rates to fund the companies’ nuclear power plant projects, some of which have been abandoned.
The suit was brought Monday by the law firm Hagens Berman in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. It accuses Duke Energy Florida and FPL of overcharging through unconstitutional price hikes that increase customers’ electricity bills in order to fund nuclear construction costs.
The issue ranks among the most controversial in recent Florida history, forcing customers of monopoly utilities to take on the financial risk of building nuclear power plants, projects prone to extreme cost overruns. Such utility projects historically have been financed by banks and Wall Street, with the risks borne by Duke and FPL shareholders, not by ratepayers.
Lawsuit states millions of Florida consumers have been wrongfully overcharged
MIAMI 2/22/16—Today two Florida utility companies – Duke Energy Florida and Florida Power and Light (FP&L) – were hit with a class-action lawsuit from Florida ratepayers alleging that the energy suppliers force millions of Florida customers to pay unlawful charges in connection with their electricity rates to fund the companies’ nuclear power plant projects, some of which have been abandoned, according to consumer-rights law firm Hagens Berman.
The suit filed Feb. 22, 2016 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida accuses Duke Energy and FP&L of overcharging through unconstitutional price hikes that increase customers’ electricity bills to fund nuclear construction costs, and according to public information, the two utilities have been authorized to collect hundreds of millions in nuclear project costs through rate hikes.
by Gloria Tatum
(APN) ATLANTA 2/17/16 — A pro-consumer bill, HB 931, co-sponsored by State Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale), calls for an end to the Nuclear Construction Cost Recovery (NCCR) surcharge on Georgia Power electric bills after March 2017.
NCCR is a statewide surcharge that all Georgia Power residential and small business electricity customers pay every month.
It is about eight percent of one’s total bill with additional periodic rate increases.
Georgia Power’s two new nuclear reactors, Vogtle 3 and 4, originally were scheduled for completion in 2017, and at that time the surcharge was to expire.
However, Georgia Power is over three years behind schedule, and almost three billion dollars over-budget, with only 26 percent of the construction complete.
by Russell Grantham
ATLANTA 2/13/16 — Renewable fuels are poised to grow from a footnote into a small but meaningful part of the picture at Georgia’s biggest electric utility.
By 2020 solar, wind, biomass and hydro will account for 10 percent of Georgia Power’s fuel mix, according to a new long-term plan the company recently filed with state regulators. That’s up from about 7 percent this year, or just 2 percent not counting hydro. In 2005, non-hydro renewables were not even counted in the mix.
Critics say the pace is still too slow. And at least one questions the utility’s overall goal of boosting its capacity buffer — the extra juice it could generate during a severe heat wave or power outages — at a time when demand has been flattened by slower economic growth and better efficiency.
by Russell Grantham
ATLANTA 2/9/16 — A trio of Georgia lawmakers want to block Georgia Power from levying surcharges on customers’ bills to finance its long-delayed Plant Vogtle nuclear expansion after 2017.
“Today’s Georgia Power customers stand to pay $1.4 billion more to finance Vogtle construction over the next few years due to major construction delays,” said Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, sponsor of a bill filed Monday.
In 2009, lawmakers allowed the utility to begin tacking a surcharge on customers’ bills to finance its share of the cost to build two additional nuclear power units at Plant Vogtle near Augusta. The monthly surcharges add about $81 to the typical residential customer’s annual utility bill.