Duke wants customers to pay $91.9 million in costs for Hurricane Idalia

Hurricane Idalia
Street flooding in Gulfport, Florida from Hurricane Idalia storm surge. By Seán Kinane/WMNF News (30 Aug. 2023)

By Jim Saunders ©2023 The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — After Hurricane Idalia tore through parts of its service area, Duke Energy Florida on Monday estimated storm-related costs totaling $91.9 million.

Duke filed a proposal at the Florida Public Service Commission seeking approval to pass along the Idalia costs to customers in 2024. To cushion the blow to customers’ monthly bills, it also proposed spreading out costs that it already is collecting for a series of earlier storms, such as Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.

“Hurricane Idalia impacted more than 200,000 customers in DEF’s (Duke Energy Florida’s) service territory,” the filing said. “More than 5,000 line workers, tree professionals, damage assessors and support personnel were staged strategically throughout the state to respond and restore power to customers and communities as quickly and safely as possible.”

If the overall proposal is approved, Duke would collect $166.1 million in storm-related costs from customers in 2024.

The Public Service Commission in the past has allowed utilities to recoup storm-restoration costs from customers, and the issue was anticipated in a 2021 Duke rate settlement. Other utilities had not filed proposals to recover Idalia costs as of Monday afternoon, according to the Public Service Commission website.

The Category 3 Idalia made landfall Aug. 30 in the Keaton Beach area of Taylor County before crossing a largely rural region of North Florida. It had traveled north through the Gulf of Mexico, causing damage in some coastal communities.

Duke in April began recovering what is expected to be $431.4 million for storm-related costs from hurricanes Ian, Nicole, Elsa, Eta and Isaias and Tropical Storm Fred. Those costs were slated to be recovered over a year-long period through March 2024.

But as part of Monday’s proposal, the remaining costs from those earlier storms would be spread throughout 2024, rather than collected only during the first three months. While the new Idalia costs also would be collected throughout 2024, spreading the earlier costs would help ease the impact on monthly bills.

Utility bills are made up of several types of charges such as base rates, fuel costs, environmental costs and storm-related costs. As a benchmark, the utility industry often focuses on bills of residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.

While Duke customers could face Idalia costs in 2024, the utility said it expects customers’ total monthly bills to decrease. In addition to spreading out the earlier storm-related costs, the reduction would stem from issues such as lower fuel costs.

Duke said residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours a month would see their bills go from $183 in December to $171.71 in January.

“We will continue to explore ways to provide the best possible price for our customers while delivering the safe, reliable energy our customers rely on — no matter the circumstance,” Melissa Seixas, Duke Energy Florida state president, said in a prepared statement.

Duke has about 1.9 million customers in Florida.

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