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Florida regulators approve FPL base rate increase

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm •  Published: December 13, 2012

FPL and the other settling parties originally submitted an agreement calling for a $378 million January increase but they agreed to reduce it by $28 million after the commission suggested some changes. The additional power plants may expand the revenue total into the neighborhood of $900 million by the end of 2016.

"It doesn't appear to do a whole lot different than the first proposal," Kelly said. "The modifications that the commission threw out on the table we don't believe honestly are in the public interest."

The most significant change reduced FPL's allowed rate of return paid to investors from 10.7 percent to 10.5 percent. Those are mid-range figures with the top and bottom limits a percentage point higher and lower.

"We're achieving something that allows FPL to have access to capital to make these significant changes," said Commissioner Eduardo Balbis, referring to the new plants. "These are tangible benefits to the customers."

FPL currently is earning an 11 percent return and Kelly had proposed 9 percent based on the utility's high equity ratio that makes it a low-risk investment.

Silagy, though, said other factors such as vulnerability to hurricanes and the utility's four nuclear plants increase FPL's risk.

"The public counsel proposed a return on equity that would have been the lowest of any utility in the nation," Silagy said. "So, you've got to really look at that and say 'How serious is that?'"

The revised settlement also keeps FPL's late payment charge at $5 instead of increasing it to $6.

The agreement was offered in place of a $690 million base rate proposal FPL had originally filed.

The commission's approval comes nearly three years after the panel rejected nearly all of a $1.2 million FPL rate request. In short order, though, four of those five commissioners were ousted. The Florida Senate refused to confirm two of them and a nominating panel appointed by legislative leaders refused to consider two others for reappointment.

Then-Gov. Charlie Crist and the former commissioners contended they were deposed because of their rejection of rate increases sought by FPL and Progress Energy Florida.

"Approving the FPL proposed settlement agreement effectively marks the end of any meaningful utility regulation in the state of Florida," said Nathan Skop, one of the ex-commissioners.