SACE Florida Director Susan Glickman also contributed to this post.
Christmas may be 25 days away, but it came early for the state’s biggest power company, Florida Power and Light (FPL). Following the embarrassing and expensive failed attempt to pass the utility funded anti-solar Amendment 1, the monopoly utility just got the top item on their wish list – a massive rate hike, which will raise profits substantially, after already raking in over $1.6 billion in profit last year.
Despite widespread opposition from consumer advocates and FPL customers, the rate increase passed unanimously at the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) in a hearing on November 29, 2016. The rate hike is set to begin in January of 2017 and will increase each of the next four years, ultimately charging consumers an additional $811 million dollars. In practical terms, this means that a residential FPL customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours monthly can expect to see their monthly bills increase about $10. [1,000 kilowatt-hours is what an “average” customer uses although individual monthly bills will vary depending on actual use.]
While rate hikes for power companies are not uncommon (rates historically go up every few years nationally) this bill increase lands FPL on the “naughty” list this holiday season.
First, it shows their complete disregard for the concerns of their most vulnerable consumers. In public hearings leading up to this decision, low income and fixed income FPL customers voiced concerns about how this rate increase would be an extraordinary burden on their already stressed finances. Ironically, FPL and their allies have attacked rooftop solar in the name of protecting low income customers (eg. ADORA OBI NWEZE: Why I support Florida’s Amendment 1) but when it comes to increasing their own profits, they apparently waste no time in throwing that rhetoric out the door.
Secondly, it underscores that, yet again, the PSC answers to FPL, not to the public. In 2014, at the request of the big power companies the PSC gutted conservation programs. They continue to approve new power plants and costs for ultra expensive nuclear reactors that may or may not get built.
Heading into 2017, defending utility attacks on customer-owned solar in Florida will continue to be a big battle. While no one can say for sure what the future holds, this massive rate increase, unanimously rubber-stamped by the PSC, is a good indicator that big power companies are the ones getting the gifts this holiday season.