TAMPA — Citing sluggish growth and rising costs, Tampa Electric wants to raise the average residential customer's bill by $11 a month.
The requested rate hike would take effect Jan. 1, 2014, if it is approved by the state Public Service Commission.
"There is never a good time to raise rates, and we empathize with our customers who are also feeling the effects of a difficult economy," said Gordon Gillette, president of Tampa Electric. "The pace of the economic recovery has not been what anyone predicted. We have worked diligently to keep costs low, but costs continue to outpace growth."
If approved, the $11 jump would increase the average bill to about $113 for 1,000 kilowatt hour hours, the amount the average customer uses each month.
The rate had fallen from $106.90 per month in 2012 to $102.58 this year. Tampa Electric, a subsidiary of TECO Energy, last sought a rate increase in 2008.
"It is important to remember that while the cost of nearly everything has gone up in recent years, the relative cost of electricity has gone down," Gillette said. "We are proud to offer our customers a great value."
J.R. Kelly, the state public counsel who represents consumers before the PSC, said his office will oppose the rate request.
"That's a hefty increase," Kelly said. "That's not fair and reasonable."
Even with the $11 increase, Tampa Electric's rates would remain below the rates for Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy. Progress' rates stand at $116.06 per 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage.
Progress cannot request an increase in base rates for 2014 because of a rate settlement agreement that lasts through 2016. But other adjustments high or lower can be made as a result of changes in fuel prices and other expenses.
Tampa Electric must now submit its formal petition, which will come after April 5. State regulators then review the petition and hold public hearings before making a final decision.
"We certainly will be arguing that they should not get that high of an increase," Kelly said. "It should be a lot less."
Ivan Penn can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2332.