Business

FPL wants rate hike, says bills will drop

MANATEE — Florida Power & Light is requesting a base rate increase of $1.3 billion over a two-year period starting Jan. 1.

But with lower fuel charges, consumers would actually see a decrease of $5 per month for the average bill, even if the increase is granted by state officials, according to the company.

The rate proposal does not include fuel costs and other items, such as conservation, environmental matters and charges for new nuclear projects that are paid for by consumers separately, said J.R. Kelly, who represents consumers through the Office of Public Counsel, in an e-mail to legislators.

Thus, the request does not include an additional $62.8 million FPL has sought for nuclear facilities in 2010, wrote Kelly.

Even if the Florida Public Service Commission approves FPL’s new rate proposal, which would span two years, a typical resident’s 1,000 kilowatt residential bill would drop by about $5 monthly, from about $109 to $104, FPL spokeswoman Jackie Anderson said Monday.

“FPL rates are the lowest of the state’s 54 utility companies,” she said. “A typical FPL customer pays about $25 less per month, or $300 per year less, than other Florida utility customers.”

One of the reasons the company has been able to keep bills low is that it has invested to keep its power plants efficient, she added.

“Since 2003, we’ve actually saved customers about $3 billion in fuel costs,” she said.

The upcoming rate proposal would mean lower bills for customers, but still would allow the company to continue to invest in its infrastructure to help keep bills low, Anderson said.

“Fuel efficiency measures we want to invest in will save customers $1 billion a year in fuel costs, beginning in 2014,” Anderson said.

“For example, we’re modernizing two of our older plants in Cape Canaveral and Riviera Beach. Those plants will be 33 percent more fuel efficient when they come online.”

FPL has 166,000 customers in Manatee and 244,000 in Sarasota County, she said.

The Public Service Commission, which regulates the state’s utilities, plans its first public hearing on the rate proposal from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. June 19, at Sarasota City Hall, 1565 First Street, Sarasota, according to the company and the PSC.

The PSC will hold eight other such hearings around the state, and has eight months to make a decision, officials said.

State House Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Reagan, R-Bradenton, said he looked forward to hearing more from FPL about the rate proposal, adding he hoped they could “prove the need” before any rate increases would take place.

State Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said he planned to “watch the hearings with great interest.”

“The request should receive adequate scrutiny, especially during these difficult economic times,” he said.

“It’s hard enough for people to get by paying their monthly bills,” Galvano said. “That’s why we have the hearings. They’re going to have to show the rate increase is justified.”

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 708-7908.

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