State regulators to take up Gulf Power rate hike proposal

State regulators to take up Gulf Power rate hike proposal

Monday marks the start of a week's worth of hearings for a utility rate increase that would impact roughly 450,000 customers. Staff with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) will be listening to arguments both for and against Gulf Power's proposed hike.

Gulf Power has proposed a rate plan that would include increasing the daily base charge and decreasing the kilowatt-hour (kWh) energy charge.

"My husband and I both work for the school district so summer months are tight for us anyways," said Keri Buck who is a customer. "So a rate increase like that would be definitely something that we want to feel like we have an explanation about."

According to the company's website, the increase would cover things like protection of critical infrastructure, replacing aging equipment and delivering greater reliability. Documents filed with PSC show that the proposal would bring in over $106 million for the company.

"Our request is based on the need to deliver greater reliability, predictability and choice for our customer today and for generations to come," Gulf Power said in a statement to WEAR-TV. "We look forward to having productive discussions this week with all involved."

The rate plan would increase the daily base charge from $0.62 to $1.58 and decrease the energy charge from 4.585 cents to 3.298 cents.

So how would that impact your bill?

Let's assume a home uses 1,000 kWh and there are 30.475 days in a billing cycle.

The current base charge would cost $18.87 and the energy charge would run $45.85. Under the new proposal, the base charge would jump to $48.09, while the energy charge would dip to $32.98. For that billing month, it would be an extra $16.35 under the new proposal.

"The $10 or $15 wouldn't, but it's not going to stop," said Ben Oliver, who is a customer. "Every year they go up and go up and go up."

During this week's hearings, state regulators will hear from corporations, law firms, environmental groups and other stakeholders. Mega-store, Walmart, plans to intervene in the hearings because 24 of their stores use Gulf Power. Just last week, Pensacola Association of Realtors expressed their disapproval.

In a letter to the commission, President John Waas called the increase "excessive" and said their nearly 2,000 members feared for retirees on a fixed income.

Buck said the increase is not astronomical, but she feels the company owes it to the customers to explain where exactly the money would go.

"It's not like your utilities are really things that you can do without, so we would you know, find ways to make it work," Buck said.

Staff are expected to present their recommendation to the PSC commission by April 28. If approved, the new rates would go into effect in July.

Customers can learn more about the proposal by clicking here.

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