Stay informed your electricity charges may be going up!

Stay informed your electricity charges may be going up!

Keep an Eye out for your upcoming Electricity Bill….cha-ching, yes The Florida Public Services Commission


What do you know about the Florida Public Service Commission? Perhaps we should ask “What do you know about your recent electric power bills?” Most people would answer “nothing’ or “not much” to the first question, but they are likely to have a loud answer to the second one. Electric power bills are going up and up, and many people wonder why.

The amount consumers pay for each kilowatt hour of electric power used has gone up several times recently. That price is controlled by the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC). It is the FPSC that decides how much a utility company supplying electricity or natural gas can charge. Several companies supply electricity to Florida residents, but most of the seniors reading this article will be served by Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light Company, or Tampa Electric Company (TECO). The FPSC has allowed all three of these utilities to raise rates several times in recent years. Is this fair?

Electric utility companies request permission to raise rates based on their increased costs. There is no doubt that these expenses are going up, but the increasing frequency of rate adjustments is causing consumers to question the whole process. The fact is that most people have no idea how the cost of electric power is determined. Each fall, the FPSC meets to consider rate increase requests from utility companies, taking into consideration factors like fuel prices, the cost of building new plants, and damage caused by natural events like hurricanes. Recent decisions by the FPSC have seemed questionable.

The Commission approved the largest rate increase ever granted to Florida Power & Light Co. in October 2021. Just one month later, it gave FP&L approval for an added $800M in charges to pay for increased natural gas prices. These combined increases meant that, compared to January 2021, FP&L customers were paying nearly 20% more for electricity at the end of 2022.  Keep in mind that FP&L is not a struggling little hometown company; it is part of NextEra Energy, the largest power provider in the U.S.

Duke Energy and Tampa Electric Co. are now seeking state approval to pass along hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to customers. Customers will start to pay more in April 2023. This will mean approximately a 20% increase in Duke’s residential customer bills and a 10% hike for Tampa Electric Co. What will this mean for your electric bill?

Duke’s residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours per month will see their bills increase from $165.55 to $199.04. For Tampa Electric Co. customers, that increase will be from $146.72 to $161.38. Does this sound alarming? How can we account for these increases?

There is no doubt that Florida’s utilities have had increased and unpredictable expenses in the past decade. Hurricanes have caused extensive damage and world events have driven the price of natural gas to record levels. Still, consumers must question the size and frequency of these rate increases, each of which was approved by the FPSC. Here are some basic facts about this very powerful part of state government-

  • The Florida Legislature established the FPSC, giving it the power to regulate public utilities.
  • Before 1978, this board consisted of 3 members chosen in statewide elections. A 1979 law made the new FPSC a 5-person group whose members are appointed, not elected. This removed an important control the public had over it. Since then, members are appointed by the governor and approved by the Florida Senate. They serve staggered 4-year terms and can be reappointed indefinitely.
  • In effect, FPSC members now owe their office to politicians, not to the public they are supposed to protect. Each member is paid $139,372 to regulate utilities and protect public interest.

This system is bound to raise questions each time a rate decision is reached. In the past few years, several questionable situations have given reasonable people cause for concern. In 2021, the FPSC, prioritizes the interests of the industry it is supposed to supervise, not the public interest. There is no need to ask if you are concerned about electric rate increases; OurSeniors.Net assumes that you are, but what can you do? Here are two suggestions.

If you have a specific problem or personal circumstance, you may contact the Public Service Commission at this link- FPSC. This website offers some help with consumer problems, but not much help in affecting decisions by the appointed members.

Ultimately, the state legislature is the only way to correct this situation. State legislators are elected by and responsible to the voters, while FPSC members are not. They answer to that small group of influencers who control this industry. Locate your state senate member by clicking this address Florida Senate Members and your representative in the state house by clicking Florida House Members. Contact them by mail or phone and remind them of your concern about this critical issue. Ask for action in returning this critical policy-making body to elected status.

OurSeniors.Net will continue to keep you informed about this issue. Along with the unsolved home insurance crisis in Florida, it is a menace to Florida’s seniors. These factors are uncontrolled expenses that can drive seniors from their homes and even from the state of Florida. We do not want that, so stay informed on this blog.

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