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Duke Energy customer bills will go up to cover 2020 hurricane costs

The power company was approved to recover costs for two hurricanes last year.
A downed tree along 38th Avenue in St. Petersburg affected the power lines following Tropical Storm Eta last year. | [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times (2020)]
A downed tree along 38th Avenue in St. Petersburg affected the power lines following Tropical Storm Eta last year. | [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times (2020)] [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jul. 8

Florida utility regulators gave Duke Energy Florida a green light Thursday to charge customers for costs related to Tropical Storm Eta and Hurricane Isaias.

Beginning this summer, residential customers will see an average of 55 cents more on their bills for one year to cover the cost.

The Pinellas County-based power company asked to charge customers $19.8 million for Tropical Storm Eta and $247,000 for Hurricane Isaias, both of which hit in 2020. The funds cover hiring 2,700 contractors who helped with power restoration.

The Florida Public Service Commission, however, approved $16.7 million of that, deducting more than $3 million for an “overcollection” from Hurricane Dorian. Last year, Duke Energy was given permission to charge customers $171.3 million for costs from Hurricane Dorian and Tropical Storm Nestor.

Related: Duke Energy Florida bills go up about $5 next month

When utilities are approved to collect this kind of cost, they give regulators an estimate of how much they need and compare it to the actual costs once they are finished tallying receipts from contractors. If that amount is over or under what regulators approved, the companies need to either charge customers again to cover the full cost or give back the excess, Duke Energy spokesperson Ana Gibbs said.

Instead of returning money to Duke Energy’s customers that would then be charged for last year’s hurricane response, Duke Energy agreed to lop it off of their requested amount.

Last year, Tropical Storm Eta inundated parts of Tampa Bay with heavy flooding and between 3 inches and 6 inches of rain. Storm surges reached more than 4 feet locally. More than 35,000 Duke Energy customers lost power in Pinellas and Pasco counties as a result of the storm, leaving thousands without electricity hours after the storm.

Related: Tropical Storm Eta leaves Tampa Bay staggering, a reminder of the region’s risk