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Rate hikes ahead: Duke Energy seeks 8.5 percent, Tampa Electric a more modest 1 percent bump

Construction continues on the combined cycle natural gas plant at Duke Energy's Crystal River Energy Complex in Citrus County. In Florida, Duke has filed for an 8.5 percent rate increase for next year.
[MONICA HERNDON | Times file photo]
Published Aug. 26, 2017

Depending on where you live across the Tampa Bay metro area, your monthly electric bill could be going up quite a bit next year.

Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric Co. late this week both filed late this week to increase customers' monthly electric bills. If approved, Duke customers will pay a hefty 8.5 percent more in 2018, raising rates to $128.54 per 1,000 kilowatt hours, the average energy use per home each month.

Tampa Electric customers would see a more palatable 1 percent increase, making their rate $106 per 1,000 kilowatt hours.

The new prices, if approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, would begin in January.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average price of electricity for Florida in June was $117 per 1,000 kilowatt hours.

Duke — which serves 1.8 million customers in Florida and has its state headquarters in St. Petersburg — already charges some of the highest rates in Florida among the major utilities.

"Safe, reliable, clean energy is important to all our customers. It's important to us, too," Harry Sideris, Duke's president, said in a release.

RELATED COVERAGE: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?

Tampa Electric, which operates in Hillsborough County and parts of Pinellas, Pasco and Polk, is owned by Canadian energy company Emera Inc. It currently charges $104.68 per 1,000 kilowatt hours.

"Although natural gas prices remain low, the proposed increase is due to a 2017 refund to customers that is cycling off bills for 2018," Tampa Electric said in a release. "The refund was related to over-collected fuel expense from a previous year."

Duke customers' bump is more complex. The bulk of it comes from what Duke says is increased fuel costs.

The $128.54 per 1,000 kilowatt hours bill includes an additional: $7.14 for this year's underestimated fuel costs; $1.43 for purchased power recovery costs; 7 cents for environmental recovery costs; $2.50 for costs related to the abandoned plan to build a new nuclear power plant in Levy County, $1.52 for a previously completed power-increasing project on the now-shuttered Crystal River nuclear power plant, and 11 cents for energy efficiency programs recovery costs.

RELATED COVERAGE: Florida PSC approves Duke $50 million request for paying for nuclear project.

Charles Rehwinkel, a lawyer who advocates for consumers on behalf of the Office of Public Counsel in Tallahassee, said his office hasn't had a chance to look closely at the Duke filing yet but will be checking to see if it is reasonable.

"What we'll be doing when that hearing opportunity comes up is get these costs down and see what we think is reasonable and unreasonable, especially given the magnitude of it," he said.

The PSC will hold hearings on the both Duke's and Tampa Electric's proposed rate hikes Oct. 25 through Oct. 27.

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo on Twitter.

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