In Florida, Progress Energy's got the power
For a company that gets a whole lot of its revenue and earnings from Florida (and serves more customers here than in any other state), North Carolina-based Progress Energy has the barest of representation from the Sunshine State on its 13-member board of directors.
Only Carlos Saladrigas from Miami -- a part of Florida that Progress Energy does not even serve -- is a current Floridian. Now the company, whose Florida subsidiary is based in St. Petersburg and provides the bulk of electricity for west-central Florida, is adding a new director: James Hyler, a former president of a bank from North Carolina, who replaces Richard Daugherty, also from North Carolina, who stepped down this past spring.
So here's the new geographic breakdown of the the Progress Energy board of directors: from the Carolinas, 4; from Georgia, 2; from Virginia, 2; from New York, 2; and one each from Massachusetts, Montana and Florida.
Not only can an argument be made that Florida is underrepresented on the board, this state's Progress Energy customers also happen to be paying more -- and soon, a lot more -- for electricity than those in North Carolina.
As reported in its hometown newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., the typical residential electric bill in North Carolina is $97 a month. In Florida, the typical residential rate is expected to jump from $110.59 to $144.86 a month if regulators in Florida approve the utility’s requested increases. In North Carolina, Progress is currently seeking a 16 percent rate increase, and more may lie ahead. That's still going to be well below the quantum leap in prices Floridians will be paying by mid 2009.
Rates across state borders do not need to be identical, but should they be this far apart? Not one of Progress Energy's board members is paying the company's electric bills in Florida.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist