Make us your home page

Ten years of fast-rising electric rates reveal Duke Energy Florida is not competitive

The Crystal River 3 nuclear power plant in Citrus County.


The Crystal River 3 nuclear power plant in Citrus County.

Here's a Business 101 problem so simple, everyone should get it right.

There are three big stores.

They all sell the same item.

Store One raises its price by 48 percent over the past 10 years.

By the start of 2014, Store One's price will be much higher than Store Two or Store Three.

Which store to avoid?

You know the answer. I know the answer.

But state regulators of our electric utilities don't get it.

Turns out that Store One is Duke Energy Florida, which provides electricity to west-central Florida. In 2003, the company charged its customers $83.71 for 1,000 kilowatt hours of power, about what the average residential customer uses a month. By 2014, that rate rises to $124.30. That is a 48 percent increase.

Stores Two and Three are Tampa Electric and Florida Power & Light. Both charged more for electricity in 2003 than Duke. But their rates rose more slowly since then. Duke's electric rates passed each of them long ago.

The sad truth is Duke Energy Florida customers cannot switch to the cheaper Tampa Electric ($109.57 by 2014) or Florida Power & Light ($100.26 by 2014).

All three electric utilities are monopolies. Each has its own service territory in Florida to supply power to homes and businesses. The monopoly was given to these utilities with the expectation that each would run its business efficiently. And state regulators would police any provider that did not do its job well and keep its price relatively close to other similar providers.

Somewhere along the way, things went terribly wrong.

Duke Energy, which last year bought Progress Energy Florida, has done a lousy job over the past decade running its power plants. This is the company that permanently closed the Crystal River 3 nuclear power plant after what should have been a routine maintenance upgrade.

This is the same company that said it would build a nuclear power plant in Levy County. It charged customers in advance to help start Levy, only to shelve the price-gone-wild project years later.

Customers were charged billions. No electricity was generated.

How did this mess happen? Where were the watchdogs? Why can't Duke Energy Florida be held accountable for squandering ratepayer money and jacking up rates?

Floridians should have answers to these questions. It's a terrible precedent in Florida that they probably won't get them, despite a weekend protest by customers outside Duke's headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg.

On Wednesday, the Florida Public Service Commission — a puppet of the utilities it is supposed to regulate — will meet and probably rubber-stamp a proposed settlement.

If the PSC accepts this settlement, Duke will not have to defend its wasting nearly $3 billion forced upon customers to pay in return for delivering zero electricity. Nor will it have to justify why it should get to keep $250 million it made on its two defunct nuclear projects.

Nor is this the end. Higher rates await in the years ahead.

If Duke really was Store One in a free market, its customers would flee elsewhere.

Instead, they must stay and suffer. The business gods must be crazy.

Contact Robert Trigaux at

Ten years of fast-rising electric rates reveal Duke Energy Florida is not competitive 10/14/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 8:44am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Study: Tampa Bay a top market for homebuyers on the move

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, ATTOM Data Solutions says.

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, a survey found.
[Associated Press file photo]
  2. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA


    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  4. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants the Constitu?tion Revision Commis?sion to ask voters to repeal the state’s system of partial financing of statewide elections.
  5. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.

    No way.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]