Another Florida Utility Proposes Rate Increase

Game of Thrones makes a solar appearance
Brace yourselves Floridians, another utility rate proposal is coming!
Gulf Power, similar to their rate-raising energy counterparts Duke Energy and FPL, actually proposed rate increases last October via Public Service Commission (PSC) petition.  The Public Service Commission will hold two hearings regarding the rate increase proposal, one in Pensacola(January 26) and one in Panama City (January 27).
Gulf Power is a strong entity spreading across Northwest Florida that supplies 450,000 retail customers.
The requested proposal by Gulf Power is 7%, almost double most recent proposed rate increase by Duke (4%).  According to The Pulse, “Gulf Power is also seeking approval of new rate options for residential customers.”  One of these rate options, per Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) is a demand charge.

Demand charges are a way for utilities to wipe out the potential savings of solar customers by increasing the average minimum bill. They also make it harder for you to save money by reducing your energy usage.

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)

Stan Connally, Gulf Power Chairman, President & CEO, recently stated that, ““Studies show that our customers are happier when their energy bills are more predictable and when they have choices.”  We’re going to go out on a limb here and state that Connally is NOT referring to the option of Floridians purchasing solar energy.
Many solar finance plans, when purchased, feature locked in rates over the course the payments.  Many solar customers are happy with their solar payments as well (check our blog on Brett Page).  However, many Floridians are simply not aware of the great option of choosing solar, and part of that is because of utilities pulling the wool over their eyes.
Utilities have long since made the stance that solar is not “economically viable,” yet when Amendment 1 visited the ballot in last year’s elections, utilities drummed nearly $30 million to stop solar.  I wonder if that $30 million may be linked to rate increases and I wonder who ultimately foots said amount.  Under the mask of “Consumers for Smart Solar,” no less, the utilities hid.
  • If approved, the new base rates would take effect July 1 and jump from about $18 to $48 a month on each bill. Company officials estimated the average residential customer would see a $10.22 increase on the total monthly bill, from $148.64 to $158.86.–Pensacola News Journal

The rate increase proposal has several opponents, one being Shannon Baker-Branstetter, of Consumers Union, part of Consumer Reports.  In her filed report to the Florida PSC, Baker-Branstetter argues that the rate increases are simply uncalled for.

“No one wants to waste energy or money, and yet Gulf Power’s proposal punishes those who choose to be thrifty with their energy use, as well as those who have no choice but to ration their electric usage to fit their budget.  Gulf Power’s proposal to increase fixed charges takes away even this modest degree of control over their own finances and self-sufficiency.  Forcing low-usage customers to heavily subsidize high users is regressive and this problem is not sufficiently addressed by Gulf Power’s proposed subsidies.”

Shannon Baker-Branstetter

Hmmmm.  Punishing those who choose to be thrifty with energy use.  It seems like an old tactic used by utility companies, all too common these days.  And you have the power to change that.  Yes, you Floridians.  You have the power to reject the rate proposals by choosing solar.  By taking the power out of hardlining utilities as they report record profits year in and year out.  By making your own demand charges.  Yes Floridians, the time is now to make your own rate proposal–in the form of Florida solar.




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