State utility regulators accepted a settlement agreement Tuesday that includes increases to base electric rates for customers of Gulf Power Co. and also approved the final piece of a previously announced hike by Florida Power & Light–a nearly $5 increase on a typical monthly residential bill for customers of Juno Beach-based FPL.
For FPL customers, a $1.14 increase approved Tuesday by the Florida Public Service Commission is part of the calculations that will result in a $4.84 increase on the typical 1,000 kilowatt bill starting in January. The increase raises the typical monthly bill to $100.01, according to the PSC.
For Palm Coast residents, almost all of whom get their power from FPL, the rate increase compounds other, steeper utility rate increases as the city raised its water and sewer rates 8 percent in April, another 4 percent in October, and will raise them again 4 percent next October.
When Palm Coast residents’ typical electric and water and sewer bills are combined (assuming consumption of 4,000 gallons of water a month and 1,000 kwh a month), the end result, by next October, will be a $175 increase for the year, a sum that represents a substantial portion of poorer retirees’ monthly Social Security check.
FPL expects the increase to go down slightly to $99.95 with some project costs being lowered later this month.
The FPL hike was expected as the utility had projected in August that the overall increase would be about $5.
FPL spokesman Erik Hofmeyer noted that the overall increase is due primarily to the rise in the cost of fuel, “of which FPL makes no profit.”
The new figure comes even as FPL is reducing its monthly nuclear cost recovery charges from $1.65 to 46-cents through the completion of upgrades at the St. Lucie and Turkey Point nuclear power plants. The work was completed in August and added 522 megawatts of nuclear power to the utility’s grid.
The commission also approved a $4.06 increase on a typical 1,000-kilowatt hour monthly residential bill for Pensacola-based Gulf Power, after negotiators agreed on a lengthy settlement intended to establish long-term rate stability and funding for transmission upgrades in the western Panhandle.
For Gulf Power customers, the typical monthly bill is set to increase from $127.94 to $132 in January, with the amount growing to $134.42 a year later, as the company pays to increase and improve its power grid that in some areas has been in place for 70 years.
The Gulf Power increase was part of settlement between the utility and representatives of consumers, business interests including the retailer Wal-Mart Stores East, LP, and federal agencies that represent military bases in the Panhandle.
PSC Chairman Ronald Brisé called the agreement “solid give and take.”
The deal is expected to provide 42 months of rate stability for Gulf’s more than 430,000 customers.
If the settlement wasn’t supported by the PSC, “adversarial litigation” would start next Monday, said attorney Jeff Stone, representing Gulf Power.
Jon Moyle, an attorney for the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, which represents large utility customers, called the deal “a fair agreement.”
The hike allows Gulf Power to increase its revenue through base rates by $35 million in January, with another $20 million boost in 2015.
The money will be used to pay for 15 transmission projects, both new and upgrades, Stone said. The work is considered the largest ever to be undertaken by the investor-owned utility, Stone said.
Originally, the utility had sought to increase base rates by $74.4 million, along with the potential for a further $16.4 million in 2015.
Those increases would have pushed the typical monthly bill to $138.87 by the end of 2015.
The deal includes potential cost savings for businesses that create new jobs through expansion or relocating to Northwest Florida.
–News Service of Florida and FlaglerLive