August 28, 2017 Read More →

Duke Energy Asks Customers to Foot Bill for $646 Million Loss as Another U.S. Nuclear Project Is Abandoned

Charlotte Observer:

Duke Energy said it plans to abandon construction of a nuclear station near Gaffney, S.C., and that it wants customers to pay about $636 million for the scrapped project.

Charlotte-based Duke requested Friday that state regulators allow cancellation of its Lee nuclear station, citing in part this year’s bankruptcy filing by nuclear-reactor supplier Westinghouse, the primary contractor on the project. In its request to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Duke said the risks and uncertainties of starting construction on the project “have become too great” and that cancellation “is the best option for customers.

Duke’s decision to abandon the Lee plant comes after two other utilities, South Carolina Electric and Gas and its partner Santee Cooper, recently halted construction on the V.C. Summer nuclear project near Columbia because of high costs, low demand for energy and Westinghouse’s bankruptcy. Westinghouse this week announced furloughs and layoffs for workers in Charlotte and South Carolina.

More: Duke wants customers in Charlotte, elsewhere to pay $636M for abandoned project


Associated Press:

In a separate filing Friday, Duke Energy admitted it blew past a $120 million cap the North Carolina regulatory commission set in 2011 for the state’s ratepayers. Duke Energy Carolinas admitted it has incurred $332 million trying to build the Lee nuclear plant, and said it didn’t need to clear with regulators that it was exceeding the cap.

The utility “respectfully asserts that is not required to request that the Commission review the Company’s decision to incur project development cost,” the company’s filing said.

Considering how far along Duke Energy Carolinas was in the process of getting a federal operating license for the nuclear plant, it would have been unreasonable to suspend these efforts once the company hit the cap. Besides, Duke Energy said, it kept the commission informed in semi-annual reports, implying regulators had a chance to object before now.

David Drooz, the top state lawyer representing utility consumers, said his office would study the details of Duke Energy’s arguments and take a public position later.

State regulators should carefully examine Duke Energy’s bill for the Lee nuclear plant and push the company toward more use of renewable energy, said Peter Ledford, an attorney with North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, an advocacy group.

“Lee Nuclear has never, and now will never, generate a single watt of electricity, whereas their investments in solar are providing ratepayers with consistent energy generation,” he wrote in an email. “This clean and affordable resource does not have the same construction and fuel risks associated with coal, natural gas, or nuclear.”

More: Duke Energy scraps SC nuke plant, seeks higher power rates

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