FPL Agrees To Reduce Rate Hike Request

Oct 10, 2016 No Comments by

Florida Power & Light has agreed to reduce its multi-year rate-hike request to about 57 percent of what the utility had proposed in January.

A settlement agreement was filed late Thursday with the Florida Public Service Commission, which has final say on the rate-increase request. The agreement was signed by FPL and three intervenors: the state Office of Public Counsel, which is appointed by the Legislature and represents all FPL customers in the matter; the Florida Retail Federation; and the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. They are requesting a ruling by the commission by Nov. 30, so the terms can take effect by Jan. 1.

Public Counsel J.R. Kelly said the settlement was reached about a week ago after weeks of talks, and that the decision to file it late on the day Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on the state was a coincidence. High winds and heavy rain could down trees and vegetation that could have an impact on power lines, utility executives said Tuesday.

 

“I do believe this agreement represents a fair deal and a good settlement for the people I represent,” Kelly said.

In a statement, the utility said it agreed to a base rate increase more than 50 percent lower than it had originally sought. The increases would total $811 million phased in over the next three years, compared with the $1.3 billion increase originally requested.

With estimated fuel-cost increases factored in, a typical 1,000-kWh user’s bill would increase by $1.75 a month less than originally requested. Under the original request, that typical customer’s monthly bill would have increased from $91.56 today to $105.45 by mid-2019. The settlement increases the bill to $103.70 by June 2019, then lowers other charges to bring the bill to $102.97 by January 2020.

 

FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly said the agreement caps months of negotiations. “We are pleased to have reached a fair, long-term agreement with the Public Counsel and major customer advocacy groups,” Daly said in a statement.

FPL contends that the increases in its base rates are necessary for the utility to continue to fund improvements in the reliability and resiliency of its power grid and to further modernize how it generates power. The agreement also preserves the current rate structure for industrial and certain “large” commercial users, such as department stores and supermarkets, Kelly said. FPL originally sought rate increases of 45 percent, Kelly said.

The agreement lacks signatures of a long list of intervenors, including AARP, Walmart, the Federal Executive Agencies (which represents military bases), Sierra Club, and Florida Industrial Power Users Group. The filing states that “conditions surrounding Hurricane Matthew” prevented the signatories from reaching other parties in the case to determine their positions, and that updated information would be filed after those contacts are made.

Kelly on Friday said some of those intervenors “were part of the negotiations and just have not made their final decisions.” Asked if any had voiced opposition to the settlement agreement, Kelly said he could not get into specifics about the negotiations. Asked by email Friday if their agencies planned to sign the agreement, spokespersons for the Sierra Club, AARP and Federal Executive Agencies said the document was under review and a decision would come later. Other intervenors who did not sign the agreement could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

If the Public Service Commission schedules a hearing on the agreement, anyone that does not support it will have an opportunity to file motions, submit briefs, call witnesses and make arguments, Kelly said. “Everyone will get due process rights to argue for, against, or air their position on the settlement,” he said.

The agreement also includes a $126 million reduction in depreciation expenses passed along to ratepayers, while allowing the utility to record up to $1 billion of depreciated surplus, Kelly said. FPL would be allowed to petition and build up to 300 megawatts of solar power for the four years of the agreement if it can prove the addition would be cost-effective, Kelly said.

Also, FPL would implement a 50 megawatt battery storage pilot program intended to benefit large and small commercial customers with planned or existing solar facilities. Kelly said he was excited about that prospect because development of a cost-effective way to store large amounts of electrical capacity promises to be a “game changer” that would propel adoption of solar generation.

 

Source: SunSentinel

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