Duke Energy strikes deal to lower customer bills, boost solar

TALLAHASSEE — Here’s some good news for Duke Energy customers: Rates won’t be going up as much as the utility forecast just last week.

Duke Energy Florida filed Tuesday for a settlement agreement, reducing the rate hike it proposed last week. Among the largest changes to customer bills is the elimination of costs related to the Levy Nuclear Project.

“All of the Levy nuclear costs are gone for good,” said Charles Rehwinkel, an attorney with the Office of Public Counsel in Tallahassee who advocates for consumers. “Customers won’t see another penny of those costs.”

The rate hike Duke proposed last Thursday — an 8.5 percent increase that would raise customer bills to $128.54 per 1,000 kilowatt hours — will now be $123.90 per 1,000 kilowatt hours.

The $2.50 portion of that for costs related to the non-starter Levy County nuclear facility was eliminated. That’s because Duke and its shareholders are absorbing the remaining, uncollected $150 million related to Levy costs. To date, about $800 million has already been collected through higher rates — and that won’t be refunded to customers.

“We feel like the cost of Levy being written off is a small price to pay for moving forward,” said Harry Sideris, Florida president of Duke Energy, in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

Previous Coverage: Rate hikes ahead: Duke Energy seeks 8.5 percent, Tampa Electric a more modest 1 percent bump

According to Sideris, Duke is moving away from nuclear power. The utility will allow the Levy nuclear license to expire, he said, and the land where the project would have been is being rezoned.

Instead, it will continue with a heavy reliance on natural gas, a diminished use of coal and a greater push toward solar.

“Our company is really focused on a cleaner, smarter energy future, and gas and renewables are the path to that,” Sideris said.

Under the proposed settlement — which still needs to be approved by the Public Service Commission — Duke is committing to building 700 megawatts of solar power over the next four years, the first installation of which will be in Hamilton County in North Florida. It will come online by early 2019.

When the full 700 megawatts are completed, Duke will have about 720 megawatts in Florida, totalling about 8 percent of Duke’s solar capacity.

The settlement also sets out the company’s efforts to invest in 50 megawatts of battery storage to research how to store solar energy.

PRIOR COVERAGE: Nuclear vs. natural gas. Which is cheaper?

PRIOR COVERAGE: Duke Energy cancels proposed Levy County nuclear plant.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Contact Malena Carollo at or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo on Twitter.

Duke Energy strikes deal to lower customer bills, boost solar 08/29/17

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 29, 2017 12:19pm]

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