TECO customers resist rate hikes as their power bills soar


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Last night Tampa Electric Company held their annual shareholder and analyst call to discuss changes over the last year, as executives sought to answer questions regarding high electric bills and solutions to public health troubles. Some community members were not pleased with what they heard.

More than a dozen community leaders listened attentively to a report from Emera CEO Scott Balfour, who is now heading the company that bought out TECO in 2016. He answered questions submitted by the local Sierra Club chapter, and promised more renewable energy in Tampa by the end of next year.

“The generating capacity of Tampa Electric will be approximately 22% renewable- solar with almost 1,250 Megawatts of solar in service by then.”

Emera’s recent sustainability report boasted a nearly 70% reduction in coal generation since 2005. But with recent hurricanes and an increased cost of fuel, Emera has been passing rate hikes onto consumers even as their CEO raked in $8 million in the last year, with at least 5 other top executives bringing in more than $1 million each per year. East Tampa CRA member Norene Copeland Miller says recent rate hikes are also burning through the bank accounts of TECO customers who saw rate hikes of nearly 10% last month.

“My bill went up. I’m able to pay it, but not a lot of people are not able to. And there’s a lot of low income folks that do not have…they are on a fixed income. So when their bills go up, I’m sure a lot of them are going to be without power because TECO has not presented any assistance programs where they can really help residents.”

Walter Smith II leads the Beyond Coal campaign for the Sierra Club, and says transparency is a major concern, and his team of community members is coming up with a plan to pivot with resolutions to take action.

“Resolutions of how they’re going to act, what they’re going to do, how we can resolve this issue of the energy burden that people are suffering, how we’re going to resolve the issue of the health issues and disparities that exist, how we’re going to make certain that we’re moving towards a 100% clean energy future, you know, so that these little children have the opportunity to live in a world where their lungs aren’t burning.”

One of those resolutions included creating a solar powered microgrid to provide resiliency during natural disasters, and to also to make electricity affordable while putting power back in the hands of the people.