Duke Energy Florida is seeking reimbursements for costs it incurred during storm response to Hurricane Dorian and Tropical Storm Nestor.
The company estimates its costs from Hurricane Dorian at about $171 million and $400,000 for Tropical Storm Nestor. While Dorian never made landfall in the U.S., Duke still had to dispatch 7,800 employees and contractors largely in anticipation of power outages that did not occur.
Duke filed an application with the Florida Public Service Commission Thursday to recoup costs.
Utility consumers would absorb the costs. Duke estimates residential customers to see an increase of $5.34 per 1,000 kWh of electricity on a typical monthly bill. If approved, the rate hike would begin in March and continue for 11 months.
Commercial and industrial customers would see an increase of up to 7.7 percent on their bills. The exact impact would vary based on “a variety of factors.”
The Florida Public Service Commission will review the costs and determine the final amount to be recovered in a proceeding next year.
Duke defends its cost recovery plan because of its robust response to the storms, particularly to Dorian.
The utility deployed 7,800 employees and contractors ahead of Hurricane Dorian to position repair crews to restore power to customers as quickly as possible.
The company noted it was using $675 million in combined savings from the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to cover restoration costs incurred from hurricanes Irma, Nate and Michael and to replenish its depleted hurricane reserve fund. That’s saving customers about $12 per month on average, the company said.
“We’ve seen an increase in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events,” said Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida state president. “We’re working hard to strengthen our electric grid while minimizing impacts to customer bills.”
Duke has come under fire in the past for seeking advanced nuclear cost recovery on a now-defunct plant in Crystal River. The Crystal River plant shut down a decade ago after Duke had already spent funds with the intention to upgrade the facility, but instead closed it after damages rendered the project not viable.
The issue has gone largely quiet over the past couple of years as Duke Energy has shifted some of its priorities to lowering costs and increasing service for customers through various projects including increasing solar energy.