A $1.3 billion rate hike. Really?

I was mad as hell when I read that Florida Power & Light plans to raise our electric bills 24 percent over the next four years.

In this latest rate hike request, the company is asking for a whopping $1.3 billion to build more power plants and increase its profits. As a captive customer of FPL, if you’re not mad, you’re not paying attention.

For Florida families already struggling to keep their heads above water, another FPL rate increase is the last thing they need. This is the company’s third rate hike request in six years. FPL increased bills in 2012 when the Florida Public Service Commission allowed it to charge another $358 million and get an 11.5 percent profit. Now they are back again asking for an even higher profit margin of 12.5 percent — 12.5 percent! Know anyone doing that well on his or her investments?

How does FPL get this special treatment? FPL takes some of those ill-gotten gains and funnels campaign contributions to political committees and legislators to influence politicians in Tallahassee. Remember, the legislature unseated four members of the previous Public Service Commission (PSC) — the very agency that will decide on the rate hike — when they rejected most of a $1 billion rate increase request by FPL in 2009. Watch out because since July FPL gave $2.3 million to legislators and over $1 million to front groups to curry favors.

Meanwhile, FPL has bombarded us with ads touting low electric bills — while simultaneously filing for this enormous rate increase. The disingenuous flip-flop is what we can expect without any competition. Big power companies make profits by building power plants and transmission lines. If you use less energy, that cuts shareholder profits. That’s why FPL recently requested and got approval from the Commission to gut its already-anemic energy efficiency programs. Efficiency is the fastest and cheapest way to meet electricity demand. FPL ranks at the bottom of the list for helping customers reduce energy use and save money.

After killing energy savings goals, FPL got a rubber stamp by the PSC to build a new power plant. That plant is in this latest rate hike. Plus, FPL already is charging you for two new uber-expensive new nuclear reactors at Turkey Point that may never get built. You pay for those today but you won’t get a refund if they abandon the project. What’s more, FPL continues to block cost-effective solar. We are one of only four states where the law prohibits a company— other than your utility — to put solar panels on the roofs of homes, apartments and businesses, and sell you the electricity. FPL, along with other power companies and front groups, cynically spent millions of dollars trying to confuse voters about a solar choice citizen initiative to remove that barrier, in part by launching their own sham petition. What can you do? It’s simple — call your state legislators; tell them you’re mad about the proposed rate increases and that you want competition to protect consumers.

State Rep. Fred Costello and State Sen. Thad Altman have filed HB 687 and SB 1328 to allow competition so someone other than your utility can sell you solar energy. Florida families don’t need higher energy bills, they need policymakers who watch out for their interests. Don’t wait. Call your state representatives and state senators and ask for information about FPL’s rate increase. Not sure who your legislators are?

You can find out here: <www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx> and <www.flsenate.gov/senators/find>.

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