Florida’s Duke Energy customers oppose utility’s rate hike proposal

(The Center Square) – Florida regulators have held four public meetings over the past few weeks to gather feedback from customers who will be affected by Duke Energy Florida’s proposed base rate hike.

In April, the company petitioned the Florida Public Service Commission to permanently increase its base rates with annual increases for at least the next three years, beginning Jan. 1.

Duke Energy Florida claims that it wants to get a fair rate of return on its investment after going without a rate increase since 2021. The company provides electricity to over 2 million customers and covers an area of 13,000 square miles.

If the rate hike proposal is approved, residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month can expect to pay $169.16, an increase from $157.47. Duke has further requested a minimum bill of $30 per month.

During the commission customer service hearing held on June 18, Duke Energy Florida customers voiced their concerns, which centered around the increased cost of living and the price hike, which will put additional strain on families.

Chairman Mike La Rosa stated that the commission will hold a technical hearing in August, during which it will decide whether to approve base rate hikes.

Austin Watrous, an attorney with the Florida Office of Public Counsel, stated that if Duke Energy Florida approves its proposal, base rates will increase in 2025, 2026, and 2027. This would increase the company’s base rate revenue by $593 million for 2025, an additional $98 million the following Jan. 1, 2026, and then by another $129 million on Jan. 1, 2027.

Watrous said the counsel challenges the legality and lack of supporting evidence for these increases and also challenges the reliability and speculative nature of future cost projections. Watrous added that Duke is entitled to a reasonable return. However, in the opinion of the counsel, the proposed rates are an excessive return on equity.

Jordan Luebkemann, representing Florida Rising and the League of United Latin American Citizens, stated that Duke Energy Florida had the fifth-highest residential customer bills in the U.S. in 2023.

“Duke’s proposal includes a minimum bill, a substantial rate increase, and a big hike on the return on equity – essentially guaranteed profits which will be applied to a wave of construction projects that Duke hasn’t shown they needed,” Luebkemann said.