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TECO, Progress Energy offer $5 break on electric bills

TECO and Progress Energy customers can likely expect a break on their bills starting next year — at least on one part of their bills.

Both companies submitted proposals to the Public Service Commission on Wednesday asking to lower what they charge customers for the fuel they use to create electricity.

TECO, which includes subsidiary Tampa Electric, said its customers would save about $5.22 a month per 1,000 kilowatt hours of use, while Progress Energy customers would save about $4.40 a month. The average home uses about 1,200 kilowatt hours a month.

The savings come in part from a reduction in the cost of commodities, including coal and natural gas, two of the main fuels the two companies use to produce electricity. Progress Energy also said environmental improvements to two major power plants helped it use less expensive coal while reducing emissions.

Progress Energy makes no profit from fuel costs and only passes the charge onto consumers. However, TECO Energy benefits from the operation of its own coal mine.

The PSC will make a decision on the fuel costs when it meets Nov. 1-3. If the rate requests pass, they would take effect Jan. 1.

"We are pleased with this overall reduction in customer bills in this challenging economic environment," Tampa Electric president Gordon Gillette said in a statement. "This represents the third consecutive reduction in fuel costs over the last two years."

Vincent Dolan, president and CEO of Progress Energy Florida, said the utility has been working on several ways to reduce customer costs.

"As we did with our base rate settlement and the adjustment to the Levy County nuclear plant schedule made earlier this year, we are working diligently to keep customer bills as stable as possible during these tough economic times," Dolan said in a statement.

Even so, Bill Newton, president of the Florida Consumer Action Network, said while he welcomes the reduction in costs, there still needs to be changes that will bring more substantial decreases in utility bills.

"It partly offsets the increased rates we have to pay for Progress Energy's nuclear power plants that may never be built or may never be needed," he said. "The real issue is the nukes and energy efficiency... They want a pat on the back for this when there are other things."

Some other pending charges could offset the savings touted Wednesday by the utilities.

The PSC on Tuesday deferred until Sept. 14 a decision on the energy efficiency programs for TECO and Progress Energy.

Every 10 years, the state requires goals and plans from utilities about how they will help customers save electricity and what the cost of those energy conservation plans will be. Plans in the past have included such things as home energy checks and rebates for more efficient air conditioning units.

Customers pay the cost of these conservation programs in their bills. Those costs will be determined after the state releases its goals for the programs.

Ivan Penn can be reached at ipenn@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2332. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Consumers_Edge and find the Consumer's Edge on Facebook.

To better understand your power bill, visit this page on Progress Energy's website: http://www.progress-energy.com/custservice/flarates/PEFresidentialrateinsert.pdf.

TECO, Progress Energy offer $5 break on electric bills 09/01/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 2, 2010 12:01am]

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