Duke Energy Florida is removing plans for a nuclear power plant and will instead be investing $6 billion in renewable energy. The announcement comes six months after a contractor for nuclear plants, Westinghouse Electric Company, filed for bankruptcy back in March. Over the next four years, over 700 megawatts of solar energy capacity will be added to the state.
Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy back on March 28th, citing that projects in South Carolina and Georgia have lost them over $1 billion after being delayed for three years. Nearly a fourth of nuclear power plants in the world have been contracted under Westinghouse. They were also awarded as the suppliers for the Levy County Nuclear Power Plant that was being built under Duke Energy Florida in 2009.
Shortly after the filing of the project, natural gas became a cheaper source of electricity while the cost of nuclear reactors continued to grow. It was also revealed that construction would be done no sooner than 2016, and the reactors probably wouldn’t be online until 2018. Back on August 1st, 2013, Duke Energy decided to go a different direction with the nuclear reactor. They terminated the original agreement and looked into a natural gas alternative.
That settlement with the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) was revised this week with a more renewable future. The Levy Nuclear Project was completely scrapped and no further charges would be given to the customers. According to Greentech Media, Duke Energy will take a $150 million hit in the project’s closing and rates will go down by $2.50 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours as the utility would spread out the costs of unrecovered fuel for two years.
Over the next four years, $6 billion will be invested in order to transition to renewable energy. There will be 700 megawatts of solar generation facilities added, which is an upgrade from the previous 10-year plan. They will also be adding over 500 charging stations for electric vehicles and up to 50 megawatts for battery storage. During this period, the electrical grid will be upgraded to enhance its reliability and prepare it for renewable sources.
Customers will also have additional options when it comes to paying their bill. They can choose to participate in the growth of solar power and have the ability to pay a fixed rate per month no matter how much energy is used. Access to “advanced metering technology” will also be added to help customers lower their electric bills.
"This settlement allows us to move forward to create a smarter energy future for our customers and communities," Harry Sideris, president of Duke Energy Florida, said in a press release. "It resolves the future of the Levy Nuclear Project and reinforces our commitment to building cost-effective solar in Florida. It also makes smart investments that will offer customers more information, choices and control of their energy needs while also providing greater reliability."