Hurricane

FPL boasts of customer savings, but another refund may be coming

FPL workers continue to repair damage from Hurricane Irma

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

Over the past month, Florida Power & Light has been ballyhooing its rate decreases, based on its hurricane surcharges coming to an end. Average customers, the utility says, are paying a few dollars less each month.

Not so fast. As it turns out, the utility giant may have overcharged us “a little bit.”

After paying about $318 million in Hurricane Matthew expenses, customers saw their rates decrease by about $3.35 this month as FPL’s yearlong hurricane surcharge ended on March 1.

Now, the Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates utility companies throughout the state, is reviewing FPL’s ledgers to determine if it overcharged — or undercharged — its customers. After the commission votes on the issue in August, customers will either be credited or charged a yet-unknown quantity over a one-month period, said Cindy Muir, a spokeswoman for the commission.

David McDermitt, a spokesman for FPL, said the Matthew surcharge was needed primarily to cover personnel and equipment costs. At the end of 2016, the company put together their best estimate of “recoverable expenses,” and he believes the final number is a “little bit over” what they needed.

“The final number is not known yet,” he said.

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

The end of the surcharge brought customers’ average monthly bill back down to about $99.37, based on FPL’s typical 1,000-kilowatt-hour bill. That’s about 29 percent less than the national average of $139.86, according to figures from the Edison Electric Institute, a national trade group.

Businesses also saw their rates go down by about 2 to 4 percent this month, the company said.

After proposing a price hike to pay for the restoration effort after Hurricane Irma, FPL said in January that it would use federal tax savings to avoid a surcharge for the roughly $1.3 billion cost of the storm.

“Many people assume that FPL rates have risen in recent years, but in reality, our customers are paying significantly less for power than they were a dozen years ago — and that’s a great thing for the families and businesses we serve,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL.

Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

FPL prepares a restoration force to deal with Hurricane Irma's aftermath

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