Anti-Coal Policies Causing Florida Electricity Rate Hikes

Duke Energy seeks nearly $2 million in Florida electricity rate hikes to pay for a new power plant made necessary by environmental restrictions. The electricity rate hikes became necessary as environmental restrictions force the closing of two coal power plants providing Floridians with inexpensive electricity.

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) will begin hearings this week on Duke’s proposal to build – at customers’ expense – a $1.9 million natural gas power plant to keep up with Florida electricity demand. The new power plant is necessary to replace electricity generated by two existing coal power plants that are being shut down to comply with recently imposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restrictions on power plant emissions. The two coal power plants are in perfect working order, utilize America’s most abundant energy source, and provide customers in the Crystal River region with electricity from America’s least expensive widely available power source.

While environmental restrictions force the closure of the coal power plants, the need to build a replacement power plant is instigating a heated war of words over who will get PSC approval to supply replacement electricity. Duke proposes building a new $1.9 million natural gas power plant, but faces competition from other companies seeking to cash in on the forced closings. Calpine Construction Finance Co. is urging the PSC to force Duke to purchase electricity from Calpine’s existing natural gas plant in Polk County. Duke and Calpine disagree on whether it makes more sense for ratepayers to finance a new Duke power plant in Crystal River or pay for power from the less efficient Calpine plant and build new transmission lines to deliver the Calpine electricity from Polk County to the Crystal River area.

Regardless of whether Duke, Calpine, or another entity win PSC approval to supply replacement electricity, Florida electricity consumers will pay the price for the new environmental restrictions shutting down the existing coal plants.

Aided by $10 million in campaign spending by billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer, the Charlie Crist campaign is hammering Gov. Rick Scott for not imposing still more stringent power plant restrictions, above and beyond those imposed by the federal government. Steyer and Crist say Florida should impose state-specific power plant restrictions that would close more coal power plants in an effort to fight global warming. Others, however, point out that Florida accounts for just 1 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and any costly reductions in Florida emissions will have no discernible impact on global temperatures. Global temperature measurements show there has been no global warming during the past 17 years.