Tampa Electric wants rate hike despite opposition from customers

(The Center Square) — Customers of one of Florida’s largest utilities had the opportunity to voice their opinions during a public hearing held by Florida regulators last week.

The Tampa Electric Company filed a petition with the Florida Public Service Commission in April to increase base rates for 810,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in Hillsborough County and portions of Polk, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

Duke Energy Florida has also filed its own petition for a rate hike. Because this could mean higher electric bills for millions of Floridians, the commission is holding public hearings in the utilities’ coverage areas to get public input.

Tampa Electric said it needs to increase its rates due to increasing customer demand, inflation and changes in the capital market. If the rate hike is approved, residential customers could pay an extra $20 per month starting in 2025.

The rates would increase again in 2026 by $6.66 and again in 2027 by another $4.48. In total, Tampa Electric would get an extra $467 million over a three-year period if approved.

Octavio Ponce, attorney for the Florida Office of Public Counsel said the company needs just under $160 million to get a reasonable return on equity and that TECO is basing its request on shareholder profits of over 11.5%. OPC added the company could function on 9.5%.

Ponce recommended that the commission limit the increase to no more than $75 million for 2025 if rate hikes are approved and further said that the OPC recommends an increase of no more than $60 million for 2026 and no more $24 million for 2027.

Bradley Marshall, representing the League of United Latin American Citizens of Florida and Florida Rising, said that TECO had the third highest electricity bills in the nation in 2023 out of 149 utilities with more than 100,000 residential customers. He also added that the company is now trying to receive more profits at the expense of its customers.

TECO customers testified that the proposed rate increases are not in line with inflation and that approving the increases would make it harder for customers to make ends meet, putting additional strain on an already difficult economy.

The FPSC will hold hearings in August to decide on the two rate hikes.