We’re typing in largely uncharted waters here, so bear with us.
What follows is an editorial that does not take Florida Power &Light or its trusty sidekick, the Public Service Commission, to task for a new set of rate hikes.
In fact, it’s just the opposite.
FPL basically runs its company risk-free from unexpected costs or unanticipated disasters because ratepayers foot those bills.
Currently, customers are paying off two surcharge fees: On average, $1.32 for storm damage to South Florida in 2004 and 2005; and $3.36 for Hurricane Matthew damage.
Recently FPL went to the well again, this time to be reimbursed through rate hikes for its estimated $1.3 billion cost of putting itself and the state back together following Hurricane Irma. That would have represented a 24 percent hike in the average electric bill.
It it was a big storm, knocking out an estimated 90 percent of FPL’s 4.9 million customers’ power. The new surcharge was to be added in March of this year, just as the Matthew surcharged expired.
But Wednesday, the giant utility did the unexpected. Its website announced that, because of anticipated savings from the new federal tax’s corporate rate cuts, it would put those savings to work to pay off the Irma bill completely. In other words, the Irma $1.3 billion surcharge is off the table, saving customers, says FPL, an average of $250 over the next 32 months.
FPL CEO Eric Silagy, said in a release posted to its website, “Our current rate agreement provides the ability to use federal tax savings to entirely offset Hurricane Restoration costs, which delivers an immediate benefit to customers, and also the potential opportunity to avoid a general base rate increase for an additional two years (2022 rather than 2020).
But, there’s more. President Donald Trump might be wise (it could happen) to embrace the FPL announcement as his poster boy for the efficacy of the GOP tax bill and its corporate tax rate cuts. He promised trickle-down effects from these cuts, and he could not have been handed a better example of how that might work in real life.
It may be a double lesson learned, and one that won’t be easily brushed aside by opponents of FPL or the new tax plan. We have to give credit where credit seems due.
FPL got it right.
Perhaps proponents of the tax plan can say the same thing, a little further down the road.