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That Hurricane Irma cleanup surcharge coming to your FPL bill? It’s been turned off

A damaged power line in Miami Beach after Hurricane Irma. FPL announced that there won’t be a Hurricane Irma cleanup surcharge.
A damaged power line in Miami Beach after Hurricane Irma. FPL announced that there won’t be a Hurricane Irma cleanup surcharge. dneal@MiamiHerald.com

There won’t be a Hurricane Irma cleanup surcharge on FPL bills, the utility has announced, estimating a $250 savings per customer over the next 2  1/2 years.

Also, there might not be a raising of FPL’s base rate until 2022. Florida Power & Light credited its change in surcharge plans to December’s changes to federal tax laws.

“The timing of federal tax reform, coming on the heels of the most expensive hurricane in Florida history, created an unusual and unprecedented opportunity. We believe the plan we've outlined is the fastest way to begin passing tax savings along to our customers and the most appropriate approach to keeping rates low and stable for years to come,” FPL CEO and president Eric Silagy said in a news release posted to FPL's website.

“Our current rate agreement provides the ability to use federal tax savings to entirely offset Hurricane Irma restoration costs, which delivers an immediate benefit to customers, and also the potential opportunity to avoid a general base rate increase for up to an additional two years [2022 instead of 2020].”

In October, weeks after getting everyone’s lights back on at a pace some customers and municipalities found far too ponderous, FPL said it planned to recoup what it estimated to be $1.3 billion in Irma cleanup costs via a surcharge. FPL customers have been paying the $318.5 million cleanup costs from 2016’s Hurricane Matthew via a surcharge that will end March 1.

Florida Power & Light employees struggle to restore power Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017, after Hurricane Irma left millions of customers without electricity.

But earlier this month, FPL slowed its surcharge roll to study the effects of December’s tax changes. Now, the utility company says it will apply what it saves to the Irma cleanup cost.

As for the effects on an FPL consumer’s bottom line, the Matthew surcharge is $3.35 for a customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. As that ends, the Irma surcharge would have begun. That would have added $4 to the bill of a customer using 1,000 kWh per month, going up to $5.50 in 2019 and 2020, under the plan FPL announced in October.

FPL is assembling a restoration force of more than 13,500 including utility partners from 29 states, as far away as Texas and California.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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