Special Reports

FPL rates to go up about $1 a month for most

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Power & Light customers will pay about $1 a month more for electricity on a typical bill, state regulators decided Friday in their final ruling on a turbulent rate case that took 11 months to complete.

But customers are likely to see their total bills drop in March, when the new base rates take effect, because of a reduction in another portion of the company’s electric bills.

Earlier this month, the Florida Public Service Commission rejected nearly all of FPL’s requested $1.3 billion rate increase, allowing the company to collect just $75 million a year more than it did in 2009. It was the company’s first rate case in 25 years.

Under the plan approved Friday in a 17-minute meeting, residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatts a month will see the base rate portion of their bills rise $1.03 — from $42 a month to $43.03 — bringing the total bill, with various fees, to $96.46.

But FPL also is collecting too much from customers to pay for future storm damage, the PSC said. So the company is expected to reduce bills another $1.97 per 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, dropping the total monthly bill to $94.44 a month in March.

That’s down from $110.72 for the same customers in December.

And FPL’s 4.5 million customers already are seeing some savings on their January bills.

That’s because the PSC ordered the company to issue one-time refunds when it collected $365 million in surplus fuel costs in 2009. The money is being returned to customers through credits on their bills for January, when many Floridians’ electricity use soared as outside temperatures plummeted.

The refund will be about $44 for customers who used 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity during the Jan. 4 to Feb. 2 billing cycle, with a larger refund for those who used more electricity, said FPL spokesman Mayco Villafana.

FPL had asked the PSC to spread out the refunds throughout 2010 in an unsuccessful attempt to offset its proposed rate increase.

PSC Chairwoman Nancy Argenziano called the completion of the rate case “a major relief,” noting that it was the first rate case for FPL, the state’s largest utility, in 25 years.

The PSC will release its final order on the case by February 20. The company — which is the state’s largest utility — will have 30 days to appeal the ruling to the Florida Supreme Court. FPL officials said they are still deciding whether to apply for another rate increase later this year.