The Florida Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved an agreement between Duke Energy, business and consumer groups that stabilizes electric rates over the next three years.
The settlement was widely hailed as pro-consumer, with Office of Public Counsel attorney Anastacia Pirello saying it represents the “best overall outcome” for consumers. The office estimates the agreement will save consumers as much as $200 million over its duration.
PSC Chairman Gary Clark said, “We determined the Agreement was a fair resolution in the public interest, and I believe it resulted in lower rates than would have been possible without a settlement. Customers now know what to expect on their bills through 2024, and Duke can focus on providing safe and reliable energy to its customers.”
Duke Energy reached the agreement with representatives of several consumer groups, including the Office of Public Counsel, the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, Nucor Steel Florida and White Springs Agricultural Chemicals, among others.
Despite the deal stabilizing rates and allowing Duke to continue lowering its carbon footprint while improving its grid, it has faced some criticism.
A report in The Capitolist slammed the deal, claiming residential customers will see increases up to 6.5% next year followed by increases of up to 2% in 2023 and 2024.
But that portrayal has been refuted by Duke Energy and the customer groups involved in shaping the agreement.
Customers will indeed see higher bills, though only slightly — nowhere near 6.5%.
The settlement would bring about $195 million in rate increases over the next three years. However, the increase would be split across Duke Energy’s 1.8 million-plus customers in the state.
Duke Energy, which Fortune magazine recently named one of ‘World’s Most Admired Companies’ for the 15th year in a row, said most residential ratepayers would see their bills go up by 1% or 2% next year. Non-residential customers bill increases will have more variation, but most will see increases between 1% and 3% next year.
Bills would increase by about 1% or 2% in 2023, and by the same amount in 2024.
Though rates will increase, Duke has committed to making more than $5 billion in investments to modernize the electric grid, improve reliability, offer new electric vehicle charging station programs and support pilot programs for innovative technology, such as microgrids and floating solar pilot projects.
The agreement also provides a new optional residential “Time-of-Use” rate, reduces hurricane cost recovery impacts to customers, removes residential credit card fees for bill payments and targets earlier retirement dates for DEF’s last two coal units eight years ahead of schedule, from 2042 to 2034, in support of the company’s carbon reduction goals.
Further, none of the parties with a stake in the agreement are complaining. Quite the opposite.
Florida Industrial Power Users group attorney Jon Moyle said it was “a great opportunity for ratepayers to make some considerable savings.”