FPL proposes lower fuel costs that could trim electric bill hikes

Published on March 2, 2023 at 9:45 am

With Florida regulators poised to consider proposals that would increase monthly electric bills, Florida Power & Light said lower-than-expected natural gas prices this year could somewhat soften the blow.

FPL filed a petition at the state Public Service Commission that would trim increases proposed to take effect in April. The utility serves portions of Baker, Clay, Nassau, Putnam and St. johns counties in Northeast Florida.

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FPL’s filing came two days after Duke Energy Florida filed a similar petition based on natural-gas prices. Bottom line, customers of both utilities would still pay more each month — just not as much as originally proposed.

“This is good news for customers,” Armando Pimentel, president and CEO of FPL, said in a prepared statement about Wednesday’s filing. “We recognize that sharp inflation is impacting our customers and that every dollar counts, which is why we are pleased to provide relief to customers as fuel prices have moderated.”

FPL, Duke and Tampa Electric Co. filed proposals in January with the Public Service Commission to recoup costs stemming from hurricanes and natural-gas prices that were far higher than expected in 2022. The Public Service Commission will take up the proposals Tuesday.

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But since the January filings, FPL and Duke said projected 2023 costs of natural gas — the main fuel source for Florida power plants — have decreased. FPL said, for example, customers could pay $379 million less for natural gas this year than expected.

Customers’ bills are made up of a combination of expenses, such as base rates, fuel costs and environmental costs. Utilities are typically allowed to pass along fuel costs and expenses related to hurricane preparation and recovery.

In addressing rates, utilities rely on a benchmark of residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month. Because of a merger with the former Gulf Power in Northwest Florida, FPL has two sets of rates.

Residential customers in areas traditionally served by FPL currently pay $129.59 a month for 1000 kilowatt hours of electricity. Customers in Northwest Florida pay $159.81.

Under the proposal filed in January, customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours in the traditional areas could see their bills go to $142.88 in April, while such customers in Northwest Florida could see their bills go to $173.09. But under the petition filed Wednesday, those increases would be trimmed by $4.43 in May.

Those numbers could change because regulators also are considering a proposal that involves costs of past storms that are being paid by the Northwest Florida customers. Essentially, the proposal would spread those costs to all FPL customers.

Meanwhile, Duke customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity currently pay $165.55. Under Duke’s January proposal, that total would go to $199.04 in April. But the petition filed Monday would trim the increase by $8.48.

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