Duke Energy and TECO bills could dip slightly in June

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Duke Energy
Duke Energy St. Petersburg offices. By Seán Kinane / WMNF News (25 Oct. 2016).

By Jim Saunders 15 hrs ago ©2024 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Duke Energy Florida on Monday joined Tampa Electric Co. in seeking approval to reduce customer bills in June because of lower-than-expected costs of natural gas.

Duke filed a proposal at the state Public Service Commission to pass along a projected $233.5 million in fuel savings to customers over a year-long period. The move came after Tampa Electric made a similar filing last week and after the commission approved trimming Florida Power & Light bills because of lower-than-expected costs.

The utilities also lowered bills at the beginning of 2024, in part because of reduced fuel costs.

“With fuel prices expected to decline, we have an opportunity to lower rates for a second time this year for our customers, just as we prepare for the higher energy usage that come with summer months,” Melissa Seixas, Duke Energy Florida state president, said in a prepared statement Monday.

Florida utilities rely heavily on natural gas to fuel power plants, and gas prices have been volatile in recent years. When gas prices surge, increased costs are passed along to customers; when prices drop, customers get a break in their bills.

The Public Service Commission each fall sets projected fuel costs for the upcoming year. But if the actual costs turn out to differ greatly from the projections, utilities can seek what is known as a “mid-course correction” — the type of proposal that Duke, Tampa Electric and FPL filed.

Utilities typically use a benchmark bill of residential customers who consume 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.

Duke residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours would see their bills decrease from $160.58 in May to $154.68 in June, under the proposal filed Monday. Such Tampa Electric customers would see their bills go from $143.48 to $136.44.

The commission last week approved FPL’s proposal to pass along fuel-cost savings, starting in May. FPL has two sets of rates because of a merger with the former Gulf Power.

Customers in the former Gulf Power region in Northwest Florida who use 1,000 kilowatt hours in a month will pay $135.38 starting in May, down from $143.08 in April, according to the Public Service Commission. Such customers in other areas will pay $121.19 in May, down from $128.88 in April.

Monthly electric bills are made up of a combination of factors, with base rates and fuel costs the largest. Other costs include such things as expenses for environmental projects and temporary charges for storm recovery and preparation.

Utilities are not supposed to profit from fuel costs, which are considered a pass-through expense to customers.

Duke and Tampa Electric last week also filed proposals that would increase base rates from 2025 to 2027. Those proposals were the first steps in months-long processes that will include the commission and representatives of consumers and business customers examining the details.

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