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Reconsidering Florida's nuclear power policy

7:49 PM, Feb 21, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida lawmakers are taking a closer look at a controversial law that allows utilities to charge customers for the construction of new nuclear power plants before they start operating.

The law, passed in 2006, has allowed utilities to charge customers more than $1 billion for new nuclear power plants that may never be built.

That's not fair to consumers, according to a growing contingent of state lawmakers. On Thursday, several senators announced their support for new legislation to change Florida's nuclear cost recovery policy.

The bill would force utilities to offer refunds to customers if nuclear power plants are never built. It also allows for the law to expire.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said he's not anti-nuclear, but times have changed and the law should be adjusted to favor consumers.

"We have to learn by experience and in 2006, who knew that natural gas prices would come down as much as they have come down. They were very high back then."

Sen. Wilton Simpson said the shutdown of the Crystal River nuclear power plant and the unfinished Levy County nuclear power plant are contributing factors to the creation of the bill.

"The reality is things have changed and now as we see a nuclear plant being shut down and as we see one maybe not getting built, we're very concerned of the cost to the consumer."

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which challenged the constitutionality of the cost recovery law, praises the proposed legislation.

Spokeswoman Susan Glickman said lawmakers never considered any recourse for the state if power companies failed to build nuclear power plants, but still collected money in advance.

She argues the incentive to build more nuclear power plants was a bad energy policy.

"Nuclear reactors are incredibly expensive. They've gone up 200 or 300 percent while renewables' costs have come way down and energy efficiency, which is the fastest and cheapest and best way to meet our energy needs, always was cheaper than building a new power plant. But the way incentives are aligned utilities make money by building power plants."

Glickman is trying to get the Legislature to change energy incentives to help people make money using less energy.

The senators say they want the legislation to spark a discussion about Florida's energy policy, focusing on the future role of nuclear power as well as the best interests of consumers.

First Coast News

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