TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Regulators rejected opposition from the state's consumer advocate on Thursday and approved a base rate increase for Florida Power & Light Co. that may add nearly $10 to a typical residential customer's monthly bill over a span of four years.
It's part of a settlement between FPL, the state's biggest electric utility, and groups representing industrial, health care and federal government customers that won unanimous approval from the Public Service Commission.
"It's a great deal for customers," FPL President Eric Silagy said in an interview. "All customers benefit from this whether they are commercial or residential."
Silagy said the deal, which will increase base rates by $350 million in the first year, will help pay for new, more efficient power plants that will save customers billions in the long run and complete the company's move from heavy reliance on oil to cleaner-burning natural gas. Even with the increase, FPL's rates will remain the lowest in Florida.
Public Counsel J.R. Kelly wasn't part of the settlement and said he's leaning toward appealing what he says is a bad deal for most customers to the Florida Supreme Court. Kelly had proposed a $253 million rate reduction. The Florida Retail Federation joined him in opposing the deal.
The state consumer advocate contends the settlement violates state law because his office is not part of it. Kelly is charged with representing all utility customers while parties to the settlement represent less than 1 percent of the 4.6 million homes, businesses and other customers served by FPL in South Florida and on the state's east coast.
The agreement will raise the residential monthly base rate for 1,000 kilowatt hours, which is considered about average, by $3.76 in January. It'll go up by about another $1 in June when the first of three new power plants goes into operation. Figures haven't been calculated yet, but two more new plants in 2014 and 2016 will result in additional increases.
Residential customers, though, in January are expected to see average monthly bills drop by 37 cents to $94.62 because of previously approved cuts in fuel and other annually adjusted changes even after the base rate increase. Company officials say they expect additional fuel savings in the future to at least partly mitigate the additional base rate increases.
Rates will be essentially flat or decrease in January for most business customers. They'll again remain flat or decrease about 3 percent in June.