By John Haughey | The Center Square
Millions of Floridians could see residential electric utility bills slashed by an average of 25 percent in May under a plan proposed by the state’s three-largest privately owned utilities and approved Tuesday by state regulators.
The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously endorsed plans submitted by Florida Power & Light (FPL), Duke Energy Florida and Gulf Power to “bundle” savings in energy costs fostered by dramatic declines in oil and natural gas prices to customers in a “lump” reduction next month rather than over a series of bills.
“Traditionally, these types of savings are spread out over the balance of the year,” FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said in a statement. “However, challenging times call for exceptional measures. I believe this one-time bill decrease is the most effective way to infuse customers with much-needed money as we all navigate through this difficult and unsettling time together.”
“This is a truly a no-brainer for me, quite frankly,” PSC Commissioner Julie Brown said. “I appreciate (utilities) taking an early initiative to help their customers in such a time of need.”
The utilities said cost savings also will be conveyed to business customers but did not offer a one-cut-fits-all plan.
“We think it’s a good day for consumers, including industrial consumers,” said attorney Jon Moyle of the Florida Industrial Power Users Group (FIPUG), a coalition of large electricity users.
Utilities are required by state law to pass fuel savings along to customers. Most do it through slight reductions in individual monthly bills over a span of months.
The state’s two other investor-owned utilities – Tampa Electric Co. and Florida Public Utilities Company (FPU) – are taking different approaches in incorporating savings in customers’ bills.
Tampa Electric said Tuesday it will follow the usual route in spreading about $130 million in savings for customers in their June through August bills and then smaller savings through the rest of the year.
“This pandemic has brought economic hardship to so many people; it is heartbreaking,” Tampa Electric President and CEO Nancy Tower said. “This will allow Tampa Electric to provide immediate economic relief to our customers in the fastest way possible – at a time when they need it most.”
FPU, a subsidiary of Chesapeake Utilities Corp., is offering “special payment schedules” for customers as part of its budget billing program.
FPU serves about 118,000 customers of Central Florida Gas, Indiantown Gas, Crescent Propane, and other natural gas users from 10 sites across the state.
The state’s 21 municipal utilities, which are not regulated by PSC, announced last week they also will lower bills to reflect the drop in fuel prices.
Using a benchmark of 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month, here is how utility bills will change for FPL, Duke, Gulf and Tampa Electric customers, according to the PSC:
• FPL: A subsidiary of NextEra Energy, with 5 million accounts serving about 10 million people – roughly half Florida’s population – it is the third-largest electric utility company in the U.S.
Residential customers who typically would pay $96.04 for 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity will see bills of $73.36 in May.
• Duke Energy: The company’s 1.8 million residential Florida customers who typically would pay $129.74 for 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity will pay $102.90 in May.
• Gulf Power: Also owned by NextEra Energy, the Panhandle’s largest utility has 350,000 customers who typically would pay $140.43 for 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity. In May, they will pay $84.04.
• Tampa Electric: The utility’s 750,000 customers normally would pay $102.19 for 1,000 kilowatt hours. June through August, the same usage will cost $78.82 and then $97.69 a month in September through December.
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