Florida Power & Light (FPL) electric rates will increase on January 1, whether or not state regulators accept a proposed rate-increase settlement in a meeting on November 29, the Sun Sentinel reported on November 22.
In a notice (Docket No. 160007-EI) filed on November 18 with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), FPL, the state’s largest electric utility, warned that if the negotiated rate increase it submitted in October isn’t approved at the end of this month then the utility will move ahead anyway — as allowed by state law — and raise customers’ rates effective January.
In its memo, the utility stated, “Florida Power & Light … hereby gives notice of its intent to implement on January 1, 2017 – pursuant to the “file and suspend” provisions of Section 366.06(3), Florida Statutes, and subject to refund – the rates that it filed with its rate petition on March 15.”
The increased rates FPL plans to charge would be based on the utility’s original $1.3 billion rate-hike request filed last March, and not the scaled-back $811 million increase that the utility agreed to accept through 2019 in a settlement with the Office of Public Counsel, the Florida Retail Federation, and the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, the local news outlet reported.
FPL stated that it accepts that it would be obligated to refund any excess money collected from customers, if the commission were later to approve a rate lower than what FPL requested, the brief said.
Under either scenario, customers would not feel the full effects of the increases right away, the Sun Sentinel reported.
If the Public Service Commission approves the negotiated rate this week, a user of about 1,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month would see his or her bill increase about $7 — from about $91.56 currently to $98.77 in January.
However, if the commission fails to approve the negotiated rate, the 1,000-kWh monthly users would pay nearly $10 a month more right away, as outlined in the originally proposed rate-hike schedule — from $91.56 now to $101.18 in January.
Then the Public Service Commission would have to schedule hearings to consider the original rate increase, and a decision likely would come in February, the newspaper predicted.
Florida Public Counsel J.R. Kelly, who represents customers in regulatory matters involving utilities, told the newspaper that FPL’s plan to proceed with rate increases regardless of whether the PSC decides on the settlement is unusual only because most rate increase reviews don’t take eight months. “It’s not that I like it for customers, but FPL has the right to do it under the statute,” he said. “It’s hard to argue with their decision [to proceed with the increase].”