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Tampa Bay utilities ask regulators to reduce customer bills during pandemic

The savings proposed so far would total $90 with Tampa Electric Co., $26.84 with Duke Energy Florida.
Tampa Bay utility customers may get a break on their electric bills to ease financial troubles caused by the COVID-19. Pictured are linemen working with a Duke Energy subcontractor in Largo during January.
Tampa Bay utility customers may get a break on their electric bills to ease financial troubles caused by the COVID-19. Pictured are linemen working with a Duke Energy subcontractor in Largo during January. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | TImes ]
Published Apr. 2, 2020|Updated Apr. 2, 2020

Tampa Bay utility customers may get a break on their electric bills in coming months to ease financial troubles caused by the COVID-19.

Tampa Electric Co. asked state regulators to lower customer bills for the year beginning in June, while Duke Energy Florida filed for a one-time reduction on bills beginning in May.

“Unique times call for unique solutions to help our customers,” Nancy Tower, chief executive of Tampa Electric, said in a news release. The utility will work with state regulators and others "to provide economic relief to our customers at a time when they need it most.”

The cuts would come from the difference in what the utility expected fuel to cost for the year and what it will actually cost. These savings are typically spread out over a longer period of time but both utilities asked to speed up the timetable because of the pandemic.

If the requests are approved, Tampa Electric customers would see an 11 percent drop in their bills beginning in June. While the monthly savings hasn’t yet been determined, the total amount for the second half of the year would be $90 for each residential customer, spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said.

Duke Energy Florida, meantime, is so far seeking a one-time cut in each residential customer’s May bill that would amount to about 21 percent or $26.84.

"During these unprecedented times, we want to find creative solutions to provide relief and continue to work hard to deliver the best possible price for our customers,” Catherine Stempien, president of Duke Energy Florida, said in a news release.

Residential bills for Duke Energy Florida customers in May are expected to average $102.48 per 1,000 kilowatt hours. Tampa Electric residential customers currently pay $102.19 per month on average.

Regulators are expected to vote on Tampa Electric’s rate cut request May 5, and Duke Energy has requested an expedited review to adjust bills for May.

During the pandemic, neither Duke Energy Florida nor Tampa Electric will shut off any customer’s power because of unpaid bills. Both utilities are reducing their workforces in the field for safety because of the pandemic but they still will respond to emergencies.

Under a statewide stay-at-home order to fight the spread of the pandemic, utilities are considered essential businesses.

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