By BILL KACZOR
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) â¿¿ The state's consumer advocate says he'll oppose an agreement for a rate increase announced Wednesday between Florida Power & Light Co. and groups representing large commercial and federal agency customers.
The deal would cut the utility's proposed base rate increase from $690.4 million a year to $378 million. The higher rates would go into effect in January if approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, which is scheduled to begin hearings Monday on FPL original request. FPL is a unit of NextEra Energy Inc.
Public Counsel J.R. Kelly, though, said the agreement includes additional base rate increases, which weren't part of the company's original request, as new power plants come on line over the next four years. That would drive the total to more than FPL's original request, he said."We are not a party to it," Kelly said. "We will be vigorously opposing it. ... Our first blush of it is that it is absolutely absurd and not fair in any way to ratepayers." FPL officials said much of the base rate increase would be offset at least initially by a reduction in fuel adjustment fees, but they acknowledged those charges might go up in the future. "Under this proposed settlement, our customers are projected to continue to have the lowest typical bills in the state along with reliability and an emissions profile that are among the best in the country," FPL President Eric Silagy said in a statement. Company figures show the combined base rate increase and fuel adjustment reduction would result in a net monthly increase of 93 cents for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours, which is about average, on Jan. 1. When a new power plant goes into service in June 2013, the rate is expected to go up by another 28 cents for a combined $1.21 per month. That's an increase of 1.3 percent.