Sparks Fly at FPL Rate Hike Public Hearings

You would think that $1.65 billion dollars would be enough profit for Florida Power and Light (FPL) – Florida’s biggest power company. Yet, it recently proposed a 24% rate hike on customers that includes a request for an additional $240 million dollars in pure profit. A series of public hearings on the FPL rate hike recently concluded in south Florida – and sparks flew.

FPL proposes to increase its shareholder return on equity (ROE or shareholder profit) from 10.5% to 11.5%. Remember, this gratuitous extra-profit request comes from a company that alleged concern that meaningfully conservation goals would impose too much cost on customers – gutting them in 2014 – and arguing that rooftop solar net metering imposes costs on some customers. It begs the question: where is FPL’s concern for minimizing costs on customers now?

Florida’s most populated counties, Miami-Dade and Broward came out against the rate hike in strongly worded statements. The Miami-Dade School Board, for instance, called the rate hike “devastating.” Broward County blasted FPL, highlighting the Company’s actions to reduce consumer access to renewable energy and conservation, actions that preclude its customers from reducing their exposure to the proposed rate increase. It was noted at the Ft. Lauderdale hearing that 275,000 residents in Broward County alone live in poverty.

At a Miami press conference state Rep. Javier Rodriguez and City of Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner reminded all of us of the energy injustice of the rate increase citing the huge income inequality gap in south Florida. The unfairness of the increase on those least able to afford it, while FPL makes money hand over fist, was a common theme heard by customers at the hearings. Many others commented on FPL’s gutting of conservation programs that would have helped customers reduce energy use and save money on bills; while other opponents of the rate hike admonished FPL for its leaking nuclear reactor cooling canals in Miami and their active participation in a shadowy group that derailed a citizen solar initiative – vying for 2016 ballot placement – that would have provided customer more choices for rooftop solar.

One couldn’t help being moved by the testimony from families that were struggling to pay their current bill and how devastating the proposed rate hike would be to them. It highlights the importance of the work that Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and other do to fight for meaningful conservation goals and for a lower cost, lower risk state energy policy. To be sure, FPL had its supporters at the rate hearings, but most had some financial relationship with the company, or were asked by FPL to attend. Even then, most of them resisted taking a position on the massive rate hike.

The Commission will decide on the rate hike later this year.

The Commission will continue to take comment on the proposed rate hike – let the Commission hear directly from you. To have your comments entered into the docket, just email them to the PSC at clerk@psc.state.fl.us. Be sure to include docket number 160021-EI.  

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