A coalition of environmental and consumer advocates will fight a proposal by North Carolina's largest electric utilities that would make it easier to raise rates to pay for new nuclear plants.
Duke Energy and Progress Energy executives concede this may not be the best year to lobby for a pro-nuclear bill as the state contends with a budget shortfall. But they have little choice, Progress CEO Bill Johnson said last month in a meeting with N&O editors and writers. "We can't raise the money on Wall Street unless we get that kind of regulatory structure" in North Carolina, Johnson said. "This may not be the year to do it, but we're going to try it."
The two North Carolina power companies, which last month announced they're merging to form the nation's largest utility, had previously announced plans to build six reactors in Florida and the Carolinas, including the Shearon Harris site in Wake County. Jointly financing new nuclear reactors, which can cost more than $10 billion apiece, is one of the main drivers of the merger. Johnson and Duke CEO Jim Rogers said they can't build nuclear plants unless state law is changed to allow paying for new reactors without having to go through lengthy rate hearings.
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