Monday, August 5, 2013

The Biggest Consumer Ripoff Of 2013: Florida Forces Consumers To Pay $1.5 Billion For Cancelled Nuke

Ripoff. Theft.  No single word captures adequately this injustice.  It is the biggest consumer ripoff in at least 2013!

Last week, Duke Energy quietly pulled the plug on its Levy nuclear plant in Florida. The plant had been in development for years, and ratepayers have already paid $1.5 billion.  That's a lot of money paid in utility bills by small businesses and social security retirees.  For their $1.5 billion dollars, these consumers got exactly nothing--not one kilowatt-hour of production.

But you may think refunds will be paid to make things right.  The utility itself would want to do that to protect its reputation.  And if the utility would not refund, then surely utility regulators would compel the utility to do so.

Actually no. Not in this game of monopoly!

In this game of monopoly, the utility executives, the state regulators, and the legislators are all on the same side and they wrote the rules.  Under Florida monopoly rules, customers are compelled to pay billions even before the plant runs and no refunds are paid if the plant does not run.  While customers scream, aided and abetted by state officials, the Sunshine state utility executives laugh all the way to the bank and to their paychecks and stock options.

To make matters worse, these monopoly rules are found not just in Florida but also in Georgia but not in Pennsylvania.  In Pennsylvania, I led the successful effort in 1996 to end the generation monopoly and replace that rip-off law with competition.

In Pennsylvania, any company or individual can build a power plant, connect to the grid, and sell its electricity to any electricity customer.  Investors in power plants take the risks and rewards from their generation investment successes and failures.

In Pennsylvania, if an investor invests $1.5 billion in a plant that does not run, the investor loses.  And the investor does not get that $1.5 billion in the first place by taking that money from utility customers for years even before the plant produces its first kilowatt-hour.

Florida and Georgia should scrap their monopoly rip-off rules and follow Pennsylvania's lead!  But the utility elites in those states know that competition is hard, and they got their lawmakers well trained.  Shamefully lawmakers in the Sunshine and Peach states are willing to protect those elites, even to the point of stealing from the bill-paying public.

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