The Florida Public Service Commission unanimously voted on Tuesday in favor of a settlement that will increase electric rates for residential customers of Duke Energy Florida by around three or four percent, and will increase rates for non-residential users even more. The deal came after protracted negotiations with the state’s Office of Public Counsel, which represents residential customers, and a number of Duke’s larger industrial and commercial customers.
In all, more than 1.8 million Duke customers will be impacted in 2022 and again in 2023, with residential customers seeing an additional 1 to 2 percent increase on top of the 3 to 4 percent estimated hike next year. Non-residential customers could see hikes anywhere between 1 and 6.5 percent in 2022, and a second increase of up to two percent in 2023 and again in 2024.
In 2020, Duke Energy was already among the most expensive utilities in the state, charging residential customers, on average, $126.74 per 1,000-kWh, compared with a state average of just $112.31 per 1,000-kWh. Today’s approval of the new rate hike will make Duke even less competitive, yet there were few objections at the hearing.
Gary Clark, Chairman of the Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates that state’s utilities called the rate case approval “a massive undertaking to have reached a settlement agreement.”
Among the arguments put forth in favor of the settlement was that the new deal with Duke limits the amount of profit the company will be allowed to make, a change that the Public Counsel’s office argued was the “best overall outcome” for consumers, and went on to claim that the settlement means consumers might actually save as much as $200 million, though it’s not clear how OPC arrived at that conclusion. Other utilities in the state, such as Florida Power and Light (FPL), are not only more profitable, but they, like Tampa Electric (TECO) and Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), charge consumers substantially less than Duke’s rates even before Duke’s most recent rate hike.
In addition to the Office of Public Counsel (OPC), which represents Duke’s consumers, other interested parties who signed off on Duke’s hike today included Walmart and Nucor Steel Florida, both of which are among the heaviest users of electricity in the state. They were joined by the Florida Industrial Power Users Group (FIPUG), which includes large industrial customers like Walmart and Nucor, and PCS Phosphate, which is another heavy user of electricity.