Just as Gulf Power was about to take its request for a rate hike before the Florida Public Service Commission, the energy provider has decided to dial back the proposed increase. Though customers may still see their bills rise, it will be less of a bump than the company was originally seeking.
Gulf Power and the Office of Public Counsel, which opposed the requested increase, announced an agreement March 20 that would result in the average residential customer seeing an increase on their monthly power bill from $144 to $151. Originally, Gulf Power was seeking an increase that would have seen the average residential bill climb to $158 per month.
The state’s public service commission must still approve the agreement. The commission will make a decision April 4.
In a press release, Gulf Power Chairman, President and CEO Stan Connally said the proposed agreement would “allow the company to continue to invest in the reliability of the energy grid and maintain a balanced energy mix.” The company has tied the increase to the need to invest in infrastructure and secure a mix of energy sources.
“This compromise is good for all involved, including Gulf Power’s customers,” Connally said.
The CEO also noted that the original request’s Advanced Pricing Package, which would have increased a customer’s fixed charge, while decreasing their “energy charge” — a formula critics charged deincentivized conservation efforts — was not included as part of the agreement.
“We will continue to explore other options that give our customers the value that they expect through bill predictability and choice in pricing based on how our customers prefer to control their energy usage,” Connally said in the release.
In a statement from Consumers Union, the policy division of Consumers Report, Shannon Baker-Branstetter termed the settlement agreement “the right decision” and said the previous proposal would have penalized conservation efforts.
“It would have required them to pay nearly $50 upfront every month, even before they turned on a light switch,” she said in the statement. “The proposal was unfair and would have had a disproportionately negative impact on low-income families, seniors and others who strive to lower their energy bill. It would have punished customers who conserve energy and discouraged energy efficiency, which help to lower demand and further lower bills.”
The Consumers Union — one of a collective of groups opposed to the original proposal— pointed out that Gulf Power’s scrapped request included a 155 percent increase on the base utility charge, from $18 to $48 per month, and would have raised the rate to “one of the highest in the nation.”