By: Red Pill | 08-07-2017 | News
Photo credit: Duke Energy

Duke Energy Attempts To Charge South Carolina Customers Millions For Unbuilt Power Plant

In another display of corporate greed, the energy giant Duke Energy is now saying that it will attempt to recover millions it has invested in a potential bid for a new Gaffney, South Carolina Nuclear Power Plant, regardless if the plant is ever built or not.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Duke Energy may charge S.C. customers millions for nuke plant it may never build using same law as at VC Summer. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Nathaniel Cary (@nathanielcary) <a href="">August 6, 2017</a></blockquote>

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In a blow to capitalism in general, the energy behemoth is abusing a 2007 state law that has already left South Carolina Electric and Gas customers responsible for the total cost of the failed VC Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville north of Columbia.

Just a decade ago, utility companies were persuading politicians through lobbying and campaign investments across the country to let them spend billions to go nuclear, with an insurance policy that would guarantee the taxpayers be responsible for returning their investments if the proposed facilities failed or didn't gain traction.

While at one time the reach into nuclear energy capacity was a sure bet, much or that was due to natural gas prices rising, energy demands skyrocketing, and the federal government was poised to cripple the current carbon-emitting fossil fuel plants.

With a dozen or more nuclear power projects being developed across the nation, cost savings could have been construed through simultaneous construction and guaranteed reimbursement so there would be no loss to the corporations.

During that state legislators were essentially sold to the highest bidder. In South Carolina for example, they even passed a law allowing utilities to charge their customers upfront and to recoup their investments even if the projects never produced a single kilowatt of energy for the people. Several other Southern states also passed “pay-as-you-go” laws.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Duke Energy holds a large influence over North Carolina lawmakers, <a href="">@BryanRAnderson</a> reports. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; News21 (@news21) <a href="">August 3, 2017</a></blockquote>

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This week, having spent more than $542 million, Duke Energy could seek to recover from customers nearly $232 million of the $542 million it has spent on the Lee Nuclear Station as of June 30th, according to its project development report filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

Included with the corporation's debt the company could also then ask the South Carolina Public Service Commission to allow them add on a portion of those costs, anywhere from 25 to 30 percent, onto the bills of its South Carolina customers, according to the South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff.

That would put make Duke’s South Carolina customers solely responsible for the $58 million to $69.6 million in estimated costs that have been invested into the project thus far.

Many customers in North Carolina may also have to pay the tab under a similar law also passed in that state in 2007.

Duke Energy claims it has not made any formal requests to the Public Service Commission for any rate increases tied to the project as of yet, said Dukes Scott, ORS director.

Although Duke Energy could ask for those costs to be added to bills as part of their general rate increase, Scott said, the final decision would be up to the Public Service Commission to decide on whether or not Duke has spent the cash invested properly on the project and determine a final amount.

While Duke Energy has not decided on a final proposal as to whether it will build the Lee Nuclear Station at all, it did receive its combined construction and operating licenses from the Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission back in late 2016, said Ryan Mosier, a Duke Energy spokesman.

If Duke Energy does decide to build the nuclear plants in the future depends in part on its cost recovery options, and how much it can guarantee it's investors, he said.

“Our decision on whether to build new generation in the future will be based on what is in the best interest of our customers, and on factors such as energy needs, project costs, environmental regulations, feasibility, natural gas prices, existing or future legislative provision for cost recovery and more,” Mosier said.

Mosier stated that Duke Energy is following the developments this week involving the V.C. Summer situation and the outcome will help predict the company’s future generation plans.

Most of the 18 nuclear projects pending before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission a decade ago have been aborted or suspended indefinitely. None of the seven projects the NRC licensed are operational. Only one is still being built, in Georgia, at a cost of $100 million a month. Southern Company financial documents filed Wednesday say the project, slated to cost $14 billion, could cost $25 billion or more if completed.

Last year, a coalition of businesses formed to pressure state lawmakers to change the Base Load Review Act which allows utilities to pass along project construction costs to its customers before a project is ever completed.

Going by the name the ‘Stop the Blank Check’ alliance, it intended to protect citizens from being responsible for the failed costs of utility companies in their horrific investments.

Frank Knapp, President of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and a member of the ‘Stop The Blank Check’ alliance, personally intervened in an SCE&G rate hike proceeding and negotiated a final settlement to lower the total costs ordinary customers would be responsible for paying out of the project’s investment costs.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Duke Energy customers already on the hook for $541 million for <a href="">#nuclear</a> plant unlikely to ever *begin construction* <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Ben Inskeep (@Ben_Inskeep) <a href="">August 7, 2017</a></blockquote>

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Shelley Robbins, who is the Energy and State Policy Manager at Upstate Forever, an environmental nonprofit organization based out of Greenville, said that she doesn’t see any clear path for Duke Energy to continue building on the nuclear project.

Construction costs of a nuclear facility would come to around $10 per watt of generating capacity, compared to an estimated $1-$2 per watt for a natural gas facility, and a minute $2 a watt for utility scale solar, she said.

“Unless there is some sort of new technology that is way smaller, way cheaper and way more flexible, I just don’t see how it’s even possible to build nuclear plants,” she said.

What remains clear is that the laws were designed by energy company lobbyists, to essentially screw the citizens out of their hard earned money for the wasteful spending of the corporations. The battle will now rage on to change these policies.


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1 Comment/s
Anonymous No. 6419 2017-08-12 : 04:45

The worst thing is that Trump's actually making easier for them to do it, because he's only interested in companies showing profits and not how they are making it.

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