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FPL Puts Plan To Bill Customers $1.3 Billion For Irma Repairs On Hold, Citing New Tax Law

| January 4, 2018

Power poles on A1A, post-Irma. (© FlaglerLive)

Power poles on A1A, post-Irma. (© FlaglerLive)

After saying in October it expected to collect an estimated $1.3 billion, Florida Power & Light has put on hold a plan to bill customers for the costs of restoring electricity after Hurricane Irma.

FPL, which services all of Flagler County, had been expected to file a petition last week with the Florida Public Service Commission and begin recouping the money from customers in March. But FPL spokesman Dave McDermitt said Wednesday the company has not moved forward with the plan, primarily because it is studying implications of a federal tax overhaul approved last month by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump.

“While we were planning to file a cost recovery plan with the Public Service Commission by the end 2017, we now believe it is in the best interests of our customers to delay our filing to allow us time to have more accurate information and understand the complexities and implications of changes to the federal tax code that occurred at the end of December,” McDermitt said.

McDermitt said the utility anticipates it will have more information by the end of January. At least in the short term, that means customers will not see Irma-related storm charges hitting their bills in March.

FPL’s approach differs from Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co., which last week filed plans with the Public Service Commission to recoup a combined total of about $600 million from customers. The money would cover costs related to Irma and the replenishment of storm reserves.

Utilities are typically allowed to recoup storm costs from customers, with the issue addressed in FPL, Duke and Tampa Electric rate agreements approved in 2016 and 2017 by the Public Service Commission. FPL, for example, began collecting costs related to Hurricane Matthew in March 2017 and is expected to finish next month.

The Public Service Commission approves what is known as an “interim” charge that allows the utilities to collect the money. Utilities come back later with actual storm-related expenses and can be required to refund money if they have collected too much — or can be allowed to charge more if they didn’t collect enough. FPL this year will go through that cost-reconciliation process related to Hurricane Matthew, which caused extensive damage along parts of the East Coast in 2016.

Duke, which is the state’s second-largest utility behind FPL, filed a petition last week with the Public Service Commission seeking to recoup $513 million in costs over a three-year period. That includes money to cover the restoration costs of Hurricane Irma and the replenishment of a $132 million storm reserve, according to the filing.

In a news release, Duke said residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month would see a $5.20 increase in their bills as of March. Duke said in its filing with the Public Service Commission that 1.3 million customers lost power in September at the height or Irma and that 12,528 contractors and employees were involved in the restoration work — the largest number in Duke Energy Florida’s history.

“Restoration work was very labor intensive often requiring vegetation clearing, accessing areas on foot and climbing poles where bucket trucks could not go,” the Duke filing said.

Tampa Electric, meanwhile, filed a petition last week with the Public Service Commission to recover about $87.4 million in restoration costs and to replenish a storm reserve. Most of that money is related to Hurricane Irma, but Tampa Electric also has included small amounts related to tropical storms and hurricanes dating back to 2015.

In a news release, Tampa Electric said the overall amount would translate to about $4 monthly for a residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month — a common benchmark in the utility industry. The release said the extra costs would show up in bills in March and continue through 2018, when they likely would be reduced.

–Jim Saunders, News Service of Florida

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3 Responses for “FPL Puts Plan To Bill Customers $1.3 Billion For Irma Repairs On Hold, Citing New Tax Law”

  1. charlie d says:

    What happened to all the money they collected for the 2 power plants that will never be built. The public service commission never met a an power company they didn’t like.

  2. Anonymous says:

    And dumb ass law makers let them get away with anything and everything. They collected monies for a specific purpose and then didn’t carry out that plan in the past, and they kept the money…use that money! Our representatives should be on top of things and stopping this kind of theft. They make profits on many years and put that in their pockets, and it is about time they come off of some of their profits and maintain their equipment. They can’t expect to never have loses and only profits. Enough is enough!!! Come one elected officials put your foot down!!

  3. Mark101 says:

    IT really doens’t bother me at all since there is nothing we the people can do about it. WE need power, without it we are doomed to little Sterno stoves and huge blankets in out homes. There is no amount of money residing in a companies account that covers the amount of man hours, equipment and material needed for the restoration of power caused by a natural disaster. And if the government is expected to pay for it, with what, just print more money, tax all citizens in the US. The money has to come from someone somewhere. OR should the power companies just leave the power off until they can obtain the materials needed thorough regular collection of profit through normal power bills. Well that’s not going to workout. Hell I don’t want my power bill to go up , but hey I do want my power restored and that distribution box and transformers replaced like FPL did after IRMA. Without it, our power for the whole street could have been out for who knows how long.

    So we the people and the power companies are stuck are at the mercy of mother nature and her fury. NO storms means NO nutty out of the normal increase. But the people in Fla chose to live here, where Hurricanes are a yearly occurrence. So all 14 plus million of us move where, pick a state.

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