TALLAHASSEE Florida - Customers of Duke Energy Florida will start paying higher rates on utility bills next year to pay for costs at the controversial Crystal River Nuclear power plant, even though the company has decided to shut down the broken facility.
Members of the Florida Public Service Commission agreed Monday to allow Duke to start charging the average customer an extra 89 cents a month in January as part of Florida's advanced nuclear cost recovery process.
However, the commission will revisit those charges at another hearing later this year when it focuses on Duke's settlement agreement for Crystal River 3 and the cancellation of its plans to build nuclear plants in Levy County.
The average customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month already pays $3.45 a month for costs related to the Levy County nuclear project. Now the part of the bill for Crystal River 3 will increase 89 cents to $2.17 a month.
That means customers are paying $5.62 a month for nuclear plants that will never produce any electricity.
So should Duke customers be mad?
"These are reasonable and prudent costs as determined by the commission that the company has invested in both of these plants, Crystal River and Levy, and state law allows us the opportunity to recover those costs and that's what we're doing at this time," said Duke Energy spokesman Sterling Ivey.
Duke Energy plans to charge the extra 89 cents for the broken Crystal River nuclear plant in Citrus County starting in January, 2014 through 2021. The total cost from that 89-cent rate hike would be $265 million over the seven years.
"The 89 cents that's going on customer bills is related to expenses that we've had at the Crystal River nuclear plant to upgrade the megawatts at the plant, costs that have already been determined to be reasonable and prudent that we're collecting on at this time," said Ivey.
The company decided to cancel its Levy County nuclear plant project because the cost of natural gas has dropped so much, Ivey said, and also because of delays in getting a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
But Duke is not ruling out a nuclear facility in Levy County at some point. Ivey says if conditions change in the next 15 to 20 years, the company will consider moving ahead with the project.
"We're saying no to this project at Levy, but we believe the Levy site holds tremendous value. It's a good site for nuclear generation. The economics of the Levy site right now just don't work."
SEE ALSO: Duke Energy to pocket customers' $1.5 billion
The company announced in February it was closing the Crystal River plant.
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