Advocates urge Florida’s PSC to reject proposed rate hike
Gulf Power, the power utility for Northwest Florida, is requesting that the Florida Public Utilities Commission approve a $107 million rate hike.
As part of the rate hike request, Gulf Power wants to increase its fixed charge on residential customers from $18 a month to $48 a month, meaning that customers will owe the utility a hefty sum before consuming any electricity. Such a large spike in the fixed charge would severely limit customer options to reduce their own energy use and save money on their bills.
Gulf Power’s fixed charge is already higher than any other investor owned utilities’ in Florida. The attempt by Gulf Power to restructure rates and increase the fixed charge by 155 percent on families in its service territory is unprecedented in Florida.
“Gulf Power’s proposed increase to its monthly fixed charge is unprecedented in Florida and a regressive energy tax that unfairly targets lower income and fixed income customers,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “By charging customers nearly $50 before they even flip a light switch, this increase would mean that customers who are thrifty with how much power they use, or even investing in renewable energy for their homes are penalized, while the monopoly utility is allowed to increase its own profits on the backs of their customers.”
“Gulf Power’s utility rate proposal is unfair to consumers. It’s especially unfair to families that are making efforts to be more energy efficient, and to low-income households. Consumers should not be penalized for being conscientious with their energy use or by choosing to invest in energy efficient appliances,” said Shannon Baker-Branstetter, energy policy counsel for Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports. “This proposal takes away control from consumers to reduce their energy bill by reducing energy use. We strongly oppose this proposal to dramatically increase fixed electricity charges for customers. It is inequitable, inefficient and unfair.”
“It appears Gulf Power is attempting to create a new class system for utility users in their territory,” stated Tory Perfetti, chair of Floridians for Solar Choice and Florida Director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom. “Requesting a monthly increase resulting in a $48 per customer charge, whether you use any power or not, while specifically asking for food stamp users to be given a discount, though no other discounts for struggling citizens are being proposed, signals a ridiculous first in the World of Energy for Florida.”
“This change will discourage solar because it raises fixed costs and disincentivizes solar investment,” said Ellen Roston, co-president of the Pensacola Bay Area League of Women Voters. “It makes it harder and slower for solar to show a return.”
“The proposed increase to Gulf Power’s monthly fixed charge is poor rate design, designed to penalize customers who use less electricity, including solar customers,” said Patrick Altier, president of Florida Solar Energy Industries Association. “As proven by numerous studies, solar energy provides many benefits to utilities and consumers alike, and those who chose to invest their hard earned money into renewable energy for their own homes should not be unfairly punished by outrageous monthly fees. In addition to providing a net benefit to both Gulf Power and its consumers, solar also creates local economic investment and jobs. Jobs that will not be there if solar customers are penalized as this proposal would do.”
Gulf Power customers will have an opportunity to speak directly to the Florida Public Service Commission during two public hearings. Hearing locations and times:
Thursday, January 26, 2017, 6:00 pm CST
Pensacola State College
1000 College Blvd.
Pensacola, FL 32504 (Auditorium is at the corner of Underwood Ave. and 9th Ave.)
Friday, January 27, 2017, 10:00 am CST
FSU Panama City Campus
Holley Lecture Hall
4750 Collegiate Drive
Panama City, FL 32405