"High" Lights

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Florida utility customers can expect higher bills next year thanks to an unprecedented summer of devastating hurricanes.

Nearly nine million customers lost power at some point during the four hurricanes. Florida power and light is the first company to try to recoup some of the more than $700 million it spent trying to get power back on.

Linda Long is with the state Department of Environmental Protection which oversees power companies.

Linda says, "There was tremendous damage to the power infrastructure across the state. Utility companies worked around the clock for weeks on end to restore electricity, just to have it knocked down again by the next storm coming along, so we’ve had a repetitive problem."

That repetitive problem cost FP&L more than twice what it had in its $345 million storm fund. Now the company is asking the Florida Public Service Commission for permission to have customers make up the difference, and other companies will follow soon.

One of the issues is whether Florida’s utility companies have enough money in their storm funds to begin with, but all of that reserve comes from customers, so if you want a bigger reserve fund, you have to pay for it.

PSC Spokesman Kevin Bloom says he expects some of the people arguing against the rate hike request will blame the utility for not having enough in reserve.

Kevin says, “I’m sure you’re going to hear all of those arguments and more from the various parties who will intervene in this docket. There are some people who say they should do more, they should have a higher reserve fund, they should have done this, they should have done that. All those things will be on the table."

Bloom insists the rate hike is not a slam-dunk for the utility, but it will be hard to argue power companies should have anticipated the historic four-hurricane hits.