Advocates vow to fight nuclear costs
May 14, 2012 (Menafn - The Charlotte Observer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Consumer, environmental and energy advocates said Monday they will fight legislation allowing Duke Energy to more easily pass costs of a new nuclear plant to N.C. customers.
Duke wants N.C. lawmakers to allow it to recoup nuclear pre-construction costs without filing a complex general rate case. It instead wants the ability to adjust rates annually to recover those costs, as South Carolina, Georgia and Florida already allow.
A coalition of 12 groups said Monday it will fight to see that North Carolina does not repeat that "tragic mistake." The groups include AARP North Carolina, the N.C. Housing Coalition and the N.C. Waste Awareness & Reduction Network.
Duke has argued that the simplified approach would allow customers to more gradually pay for new power plants, avoiding sharp rate hikes once they're built.
Critics say the practice puts customers on the hook for plants whose price tags are likely to grow, and bill them even if a proposed plant is canceled.
"You shift all construction risks to the consumer," Mark Cooper, a Vermont Law School economist, said on a conference call with reporters Monday.
Duke has spent 261 million on its proposed, 11 billion Lee plant near Gaffney, S.C. through last year but has not yet added those costs to its rates.
CEO Jim Rogers told shareholders at their annual meeting May 3 that Duke is "firmly committed" to keeping the option of expanding its nuclear capacity. But he said building Lee would depend not only on passage of the controversial legislation but on increasing demand for electricity and a rise in natural gas prices.
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