Once again consumers are the losers in Tallahassee. The Public Service Commission was unwilling or unable to say no to Florida Power & Light, approving a $350 million rate increase that will benefit FPL's biggest corporate clients. In making the decision, the PSC failed to protect all of FPL's 4 million customers.
To win over more prominent corporate critics of its proposed rate increase, FPL agreed to offer millions of dollars in credits to major customers such as Florida Industrial Power Users Group and the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association. The ploy worked. The largess could be worth as much as $50 million in credits to just one-half of 1 percent of FPL's customer base. Apparently there was no need to strike a deal for everybody else. The state public counsel, J.R. Kelly, who represents all consumers before the PSC, said he was cut out of the latter stages of the negotiation process.
At $94.62 per 1,000 kilowatt hours, FPL touts the fact that its customers pay the lowest rate among the state's three biggest investor-owned utilities. But Kelly rightly argues an increase in natural gas prices, combined with FPL's $350 million rate hike, could quickly cause a spike in customer bills.
Kelly tried to get relief from the courts to block the PSC's action, but was denied. The result: Once again in Tallahassee the only interests that seem to interest the PSC are those of power companies and their biggest clients. If the regulatory agency is going to continue to be a virtual rubber stamp for utility company demands, there is little rationale to justify the need for the PSC — or the public counsel it chooses to ignore.