The Florida Public Service Commission opened hearings Monday on Florida Power & Light Co.’s request for nearly $1.3 billion in rate increases during the next three years, with an array of customers on hand to oppose the hikes.
The increases are “unprecedented and unwarranted,” said Patricia Christensen of the Office of Public Counsel, which represents ratepayers before the PSC.
Instead, she said, a rate reduction of $807 million would be more appropriate for 2017.
The PSC, chaired by Julie I. Brown, will hear technical testimony about the utility’s rate request for two weeks.
FPL has called for rate increases worth $830 million effective on Jan. 1 and $230 million after Jan. 1, 2018. It seeks $209 million to begin operating a new natural gas-fired power plant in Okeechobee County, to take effect June 1, 2019.
The typical base residential rate would increase by $8.56 next year, $2.64 in 2018 and $2.08 in 2019, FPL general counsel Wade Litchfield told the commissioners.
A homeowner burning 1,000 kilowatt-hours might expect to pay roughly $101 every month the first year and $107 in June 2019.
“Even with the proposed increases, FPL’s typical residential bill through 2020 is estimated to increase roughly in line with inflation, to remain well below the state and national averages,” Litchfield said.
Some speakers warned FPL has become overly reliant on natural gas — the fuel is relatively cheap now, but there are no guarantees prices will stay that way, they said.
The Sierra Club’s Diana Csank urged a bigger shift to renewable energy sources.
“Why is FPL still on a gas plant building spree?” she said.
Jon Moyle, an attorney representing the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, said some of his larger members face rate increases of 83 percent.
Among the other organizations on hand to oppose the rate hikes or elements of it were AARP (which produced 15 or so older people wearing identical red T-shirts to sit in the audience); the U.S. Air Force; the Florida Retail Federation; and the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association.