The Florida Public Service Commission opened a hearing Wednesday on whether to pass the costs of incomplete nuclear power plant projects to customers of the state’s two largest electric utilities but decided immediately to delay action on a request from Progress Energy Florida and soon went into recess.
The panel heard a single Florida Power and Light Co. witness, who was taken out of order due to a scheduling conflict, before recessing the hearing until Monday, when FPL and consumer advocates will make their opening statements. FPL is a unit of NextEra Energy Inc.
FPL, the larger of the two utilities, is seeking $151.5 million to upgrade existing facilities at its St. Lucie plant and add two new reactors to its Turkey Point plant.
That would add $1.69 to the monthly bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours, which is about the average residential use, during 2013. The Juno Beach-based utility serves 4.6 million homes, businesses and other customers in South Florida and along the Atlantic coast.
Commissioners deferred Progress Energy’s request for $9 million to repair a shut-down reactor at Crystal River. The company has yet to decide whether to complete the repairs or decommission the plant and it has an unresolved insurance claim pending.
The commission earlier this year approved limited recovery costs for a new nuclear plant proposed for Levy County as part of a larger rate case settlement. The panel still plans to review those expenses as part of the nuclear cost recovery hearing but will not change the settlement that will increase 1,000-kilowatt per month bills by $3.45.
Progress, a subsidiary of North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp., has 1.6 million customers in central and north Florida.
The nuclear cost recovery charges are among several elements that go into a bill. The commission also is considering a proposal by FPL to increase its base rates by $690.4 million in 2013. That change plus an anticipated reduction in fuel costs are expected to result in an overall FPL increase of $1.16.
Utilities historically were not allowed to pass on power plant construction costs until those facilities went into service, but the Legislature made an exception for nuclear facilities in 2006 to encourage the development of that form of energy.
Consumer advocates and nuclear opponents argue that consumers may wind up paying for facilities that never get built.