About every four years, Florida’s biggest power companies come to the Florida Public Service Commission asking for a rate hike. We’ve come to expect it. However, Gulf Power’s current proposed rate hike has a completely unexpected element to it – and customers should be very concerned.
What’s going on?
Gulf Power, the utility for Northwest Florida, is proposing a $107 million rate hike. As part of the rate hike request, it wants to increase its fixed charge on residential customers from $18 a month to $48 a month. That means that every month, customers will owe the utility a hefty sum before they even flip on a light switch. Less of the customer’s bill will be based on energy use. Normally, an electricity customer can control their bill by controlling how much power they use; less power use equals a lower bill. This new proposal throws that concept out the window with the huge increase in the fixed charge.
Gulf Power customers are already paying the highest fixed charge of any of the investor owned utilities in Florida. The attempt by Gulf to restructure rates and increase the fixed charge by 155% on families in its service territory is unprecedented in Florida.
Why does it hurt customers?
Such a large fixed charge spike would severely limit customer options to reduce their own energy use and save money on their bills. Today, if customers are smart and thrifty with their power usage, being energy efficient or even generating their own energy by using rooftop solar, they are rewarded every month with a lower bill. A high flat fee severely limits a customer’s choice and freedom to control their energy costs and lower their energy bills – and instead keeps them chained to the power company. To emphasize: a customer who doesn’t use ANY electricity would still owe Gulf Power nearly $50 each month under this proposed rate structure.
Fixed charges are a flat fee – essentially an unavoidable tax – which especially hits hard those on lower incomes and fixed incomes, and could even impact active military who are deployed and not residing in their homes. For many Gulf Power customers, an additional $48 charge each month on their bill will be a financial burden in already challenging times. While Gulf Power offers a program to provide a credit to low income customers, it requires those customers to be on food stamps – and the design of the program will likely fail to reach much of that population. Moreover, lower income customers not on food stamps, seniors, and others on fixed incomes who don’t qualify for a credit from Gulf Power will be left out in the cold.
What can you do about it?
Before these changes take place, there are two public hearings. Gulf Power customers will have an opportunity to speak directly to the Florida Public Service Commission and express their concerns. Remember to do the following if you attend one of the two public hearings:
- Show up EARLY to sign up
- Identify yourself as a Gulf Power customer
- Talk about how you have reduced your energy bill, or want to reduce your energy bill through making your home more energy efficient, (i.e. replacing light bulbs, adding insulation, weather stripping, more efficient appliances, etc., or by conserving energy at home but shutting off lights when leaving the room)
- Talk about how you will be impacted by higher bills
- Explain why you are opposed to the increased fixed charges and the higher rates on your bill!
- See FACT SHEET here
Hearing locations and times:
Thursday, January 26, 2017, 6:00 pm CST
Pensacola State College
1000 College Blvd.
Pensacola, FL 32504 (Auditorium is at the corner of Underwood Ave. and 9th Ave.)
Friday, January 27, 2017, 10:00 am CST
FSU Panama City Campus
Holley Lecture Hall
4750 Collegiate Drive
Panama City, FL 32405
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