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Power Giants Seek Big Rate Hikes

July 15th, 2009 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida’s two biggest power companies want to dig deeper into your pocket. Florida Power and Light and Progress Energy, as Mike Vasilinda tells us, are both asking for rate hikes that would push their earnings above the national average.

Electric companies are guaranteed a profit. FP&L makes just under 11 percent. Progress Energy, about 10 percent. Both want a raise. The cost to consumers: anywhere between 13 and 15 dollars a month for an average customer.

“I know you’ve heard it before, it’s a matter of ‘are we going to be able to afford drugs that we desperately need,’” Dick Williams with AARP said.

At public hearings across the state, consumers are telling regulators they can’t afford any more.

“I just don’t feel, financially, this is the time. When we’re close to a 10 percent unemployment rate in this country,” Progress Energy customer Jacqui Sulek said. “People are taking pay cuts, people are losing their jobs.”

Brandishing a 41-thousand dollar turbine blade, Progress Energy’s Alex Glenn says the utility needs a higher return to attract investors.

“We’ve also got to continue to invest in the backbone of our system, our poles, our wires,” Glenn said.

Nationally, utilities are allowed average earnings of just over 10 percent on their investment.

If the power giants get everything they’re asking for, their profit will be about 2.5 percent above the national average.

The states Public Counsel has been vigorous in opposing the hikes.

“There’s no risk or very, very, very little risk,” J.R. Kelley with the Office of Public Counsel said.

A decision on both rate hikes is due before Christmas, so any higher charges can start showing up on January’s bill.

All total, 6 million electric customers are facing rate hikes. The formal  FP&L rate hike hearing begins in August, while Progress’s starts in late September.  5 more public hearings are scheduled for this week and next:

July 16
City Hall
St. Petersburg

6-9 PM Pinellas County Board of Commissioners Assembly room

July 17th

Citrus Count Auditorium

2-5 PM
Ocala City Council Chambers

July 27th
Apalachicola Community Center

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