When Hurricane Irma hit Florida earlier this year, the storm left over 4 million homes and businesses without power. Now, the power companies that had to bear the enormous costs of restoring power to millions of Floridians are seeking reimbursement — and unless you’re covered by one of the city-owned utilities, you might be footing the bill.
According to a report by the Orlando Sentinel, Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light are asking the Florida Public Service Commission for permission to add surcharges to their customers’ bills for the next few years to cover Irma-related losses.
Duke Energy had 1.3 million of its 1.8 million customers lose power in the aftermath of the storm, resulting in $381 million in costs. They are also asking for another $132 million to replenish their storm reserve fund, which was completely wiped out by Irma.
To cover this $513 million tab, Duke Energy submitted a plan to the PSC where the typical customer bill would have an additional $5.20 charge every month for three years.
Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is in a similar situation, with Irma-related costs of $1.3 billion. They are seeking a $4 monthly charge for at least two years.
In both cases, the new surcharges would start in early spring 2018.
“The last time Duke Energy Florida sought storm cost recovery was following the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes,” Duke Energy spokeswoman Ann Marie Varga said. “Our reserve has been enough to deal with all prior storms until Hurricane Irma.”
FPL customers are currently paying a $3.36 per 1,000 kilowatt hour surcharge for Hurricane Matthew-related expenses, which was approved by the PSC last year and will expire in February 2018. FPL customers are also still paying a $1.26 storm charge from the multiple hurricanes that devastated Florida in 2004 and 2005.
City-owned utilities like Orlando Utilities Commission, Kissimmee Utility Authority, and Winter Park’s electric department are able to seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and representatives of the city utilities told the Sentinel they did not plan to bill customers for any Irma-related costs that FEMA didn’t cover.
The Sentinel does note that the plans submitted by Duke and FPL are based on cost estimates that might be higher than the actual price tag, in which case customers would get a credit on their bill.
This seems to be a small comfort for frustrated Floridians, especially Duke Energy customers who were angered by the utility’s communication efforts after the storm. One Sentinel op-ed by Lauren Ritchie back in September denounced Duke’s refusal to answer questions, slow distribution of updates, and annoying robocalls as an “epic backfire.”
“The storm was bad enough, but then the company amped up its own troubles by treating customers like children,” wrote Ritchie.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.