Public Service Commission Faces Two Florida Supreme Court Appeals Over FPL Rate Hikes

Posted on February 3, 2022 by Romi White

Floridians Against Increased Rates (FAIR) plans to make a Florida Supreme Court appeal over the Florida Public Service Commission’s (PSC) approval of a multi-year base rate increase for Florida Power & Light (FPL).

The PSC in October approved a $692 million increase for Jan. 1, 2022 and a $560 million increase in 2023, plus additional increases in 2024 and 2025.

The PSC also approved a rate adjustment for rising natural gas costs, which is also being separately appealed by three groups.

FPL asserts the increases are necessary to provide infrastructure, including millions more solar panels.

But FAIR President Mike Hightower in a new release called the rate hike a “multibillion-dollar, special interest money grab” in the wake of hard times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s noteworthy that other members of FAIR include former longtime PSC executive director Tim Devlin, who resigned at the request of Art Graham, one of the five current PSC commissioners.

Devlin’s departure after 35 years with the PSC came after he sought information on how many former PSC employees were employed by Florida utility companies.

PSC’s approval of FPL rate hikes are also sparking controversy in the Florida Governor’s race as former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, challenges current Governor Ron DeSantis’ re-election bid.

According to Crist, the PSC is “in the pocket of big utilities” and “rubber stamps” rate hikes, and, if re-elected as Governor, he’d like to change the system so PSC commissioners are elected by voters, not appointed from a list of candidates nominated by the PSC nominating council.

Crist isn’t the only Democrat crying foul. Four Florida House Representatives are pressing the PSC to audit FPL’s expenditures, accusing the utility of spending millions on groups involved in political activities they say helped secure Republican control of the Florida Senate in 2020. FPL has denied any wrongdoing.

Additionally, FPL is accused of padding political accounts of Florida legislators, including Senator Jennifer Bradley, who has filed Senate Bill 1024, which the company penned, targeting net metering, which allows homeowners and businesses to offset utility costs with solar energy generated on their property.

Bradley’s bill, which is now moving through the Senate and has a companion bill in the House, aims to credit solar customers at wholesale instead of retail prices and would allow utilities to charge its solar customers a monthly minimums, grid access fees and facility charges.

Solar customers increased by 57% in 2020, and that number is expected to climb by nearly 40% each year through 2025, adding up to a projected $700 million threat for utilities.

However, FPL argues that its 24,000 solar customers are subsidized for maintaining the company’s grid by around $30 million which gets paid by its non-solar customers, which number more than 5.5 million, making it the largest energy company in the nation.

The Office of Public Counsel, an independent office which represents utility customers, can be reached at 1-800-342-0222.