The 780,000 customers of Tampa Electric Company (TECO) will see higher electric bills next year, after unanimous approval of a rate hike by the Florida Public Service Commission. The eight percent increase for electricity will bring the average customer bill to $105.25 per 1,000 kilowatt hours of energy use.
Tampa Electric is particularly sensitive to the cost of natural gas, which the utility uses to generate a large fraction of power for their customers. The cost of natural gas has increased 37 percent since the beginning of 2020, raising the cost of power generation for consumers in a difficult economic climate.
But even after the rate increase, TECO customers will still see lower bills than customers of several other investor-owned utilities around the state, with the long-standing exception of Florida Power and Light:
*pending regulatory approval
“It’s important to note that today’s approved adjustment will not take effect until January and is in line, and often lower, when compared to electricity prices in the past 10 years,” said Tampa Electric CEO Nancy Tower, in a press release last week.
TECO has two solar plants ready to come online next year, which should help alleviate the sensitivity to natural gas pricing. State regulators last week approved phase four of the company’s solar expansion plans:
The 60-megawatt (MW) Durrance Solar project in Polk County, which is currently under construction. Tampa Electric’s first three phases of solar construction – nine projects totaling more than 572 megawatts (MW) – came online between 2018 and 2020 and were previously approved by the PSC. This phase is scheduled to be complete in January 2021.
“This solar expansion is part of our transformation to become cleaner and greener,” Tower said. “This is clean, renewable energy that benefits all Tampa Electric customers today and for future generations. It is a win for our customers and a win for the environment.”
The expansion is part of Tampa Electric’s push to establish 1,255 megawatts of solar power by 2023, enough to power 200,000 homes, but customers will see an increase on their January bills averaging about 44 cents per household.