Tampa Bay power companies seek rate changes for 2021

The annual filing is part of the “fuel cost recovery” proceedings that take place in the fall.
Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric filed to shift rates for next year. Pictured are Duke Energy workers. [Times file]
Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric filed to shift rates for next year. Pictured are Duke Energy workers. [Times file]
Published Sept. 10, 2020|Updated Sept. 11, 2020

Tampa Bay utility bills are in for their annual shift.

Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co. filed last week to adjust customers' monthly bills based on the changing price of natural gas and fuel. If approved, Tampa Electric bills would go up, while Duke Energy bills would go down.

In an updated filing Friday, Tampa Electric requested to raise rates for customers by an average $7.56 per month, about 8 percent, bringing the typical household’s bill to $105.25 per 1,000 kilowatt hours.

The Tampa-based utility cited rising natural gas prices as the main driver behind the potential rate increase.

“As demand increases this winter and into 2021,” the utility said in a release, “natural gas prices are expected to increase.”

While natural gas prices dropped significantly during the early stages of the pandemic, Tampa Electric said it expects prices to rise again because of the recent uptick in gas consumption as people return to the roads and begin to use gas heating in the north for fall and winter months.

Part of the increase comes from a new charge on bills from the newly-mandated “storm protection” plans that involve burying many overhead power lines to make the state’s grid more resilient against storms.

Fuel accounts for about a quarter of a customer’s monthly bill.

Duke Energy bills, on the other hand, will drop slightly.

The utility filed to decrease bills by $3.63 per 1,000 kilowatt hours, just under 3 percent. If approved by regulators, an average household powered by Duke Energy will pay $126.63 each month.

“While our customers' bills are decreasing, we know some of them continue to face financial hardships," Catherine Stempien, Duke Energy Florida president, said in a release. "We’re providing enhanced care and expanded assistance for those impacted by the pandemic.”

Duke Energy customers will likely see a slight increase in their bills in the new year’s first quarter when two solar plants come online. The expected increase is less than 50 cents on a monthly bill.

The Florida Public Service Commission is expected to vote on the proposals in early November. If approved, the new rates would go into effect in January.