At Progress Energy Florida, negative growth
Call it the case of the incredible shrinking Florida customers. Progress Energy Florida, roughly the size of of its sister electric utility Progress Energy Carolinas, has watched its customer growth in Florida plummet (click on the link and look at "customer growth" on page 19 of the presentation) for at least the past two years. And in the last two quarters, customer growth in Florida has gone negative -- the utility has actually lost customers. (Photo of Progress Energy's Crystal River power complex in Citrus County by Steve Hasel of the St. Petersburg Times.)
For the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2008, Progress Energy Florida acknowledged "decreased 2,000 customers (net) during the last 12 months." And for the fourth quarter, the Florida utility on Thursday reported "a 5,000 net decrease in the average number of customers for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2008, compared to the same period in 2007."
In contrast, Progress Energy Carolinas has watched its customer growth decline only slightly. And where it trailed Progress Energy Florida as recently as the first quarter of 2007, Progress Energy Carolinas is waaay ahead of its Florida peer these days. Both utilities are owned by Progress Energy Corp. in Raleigh, N.C.
The message here, of course, is that the recession has zapped Florida far harder than the Carolinas in the past two years, though it remains to be seen if the Carolinas will stay as immune in the future.
In addition, for all of 2008, Progress Energy Florida sold less electricity than it did in 2007.
The dramatic decline in Florida customer growth was reported in Progress Energy Corp.'s earnings in which its fourth-quarter profit rose nearly 4 percent despite seeing its sales slide.
The good news? Progress Energy Florida announced (here's the company release) it will cut its electricity rates -- at least for now -- after a sharp increase met with customer protests and a political backlash.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist