Regulators approve $1.85 hike in monthly Tampa Electric bills
Because of earlier fuel savings, Tampa Electric said, the net increase on bills will be closer to about $1. The increase will go into effect in September and run through December.
"By more than tripling its solar generation, TECO will save customers $3.3 million in fuel costs through the end of this year," Art Graham, chairman of the Florida Public Service Commission, said in a release.
Last fall, Tampa Electric pledged to make solar a larger part of its energy portfolio, committing to build enough solar infrastructure to power 100,000 homes by 2021.
The first parts of this venture are what customers will soon pay for. Payne Creek Solar project, a 70.3-megawatt undertaking in Polk County, is already under way, and construction will soon begin on Balm Solar in Hillsborough County, which will product 74.4 megawatts.
Customers will pay about $1 extra on their monthly bills for every 150 megawatts of solar power built. The temporary bill bump does not affect the base rate that customers are charged for energy, as Tampa Electric agreed last year to freeze its base rates until 2022.
All told, customers will pay a total of $4 per month more to fund the projects over the next four years. Though they will have to pay for the cost of the solar installations, solar will help ratepayers ultimately save down the line on fuel costs, the utility said.
Charles Rehwinkel of the Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers, raised concerns about the cost of the Hillsborough County installation, saying that its costs "have the appearance of being excessive," even though they were within the bounds of the agreement. Nevertheless, his office opted not to file a dissenting brief and supported the commission making a decision Tuesday.
The five-member Public Service Commission earlier in the day also gave Seminole Electric Cooperative the go-ahead to build two natural gas facilities. One will be in Putnam County and generate 1,122 megawatts of energy beginning at the end of 2022. The other will be in Pasco County, and generate 573 megawatts beginning at the end of 2021.
Seminole Electric serves 1.7 million people in Florida.
Renewable energy sources such as solar are part of Tampa Electric’s long-term plan under its new CEO Nancy Tower.
In a February interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Tower said she aims to bring down the utility’s reliance on coal within the next five years, moving into renewable energy sources. As of February, the utility hadn’t made specific plans to add solar beyond its current goal 600-megwatt project, but Tower said she wants to add more.
Contact Malena Carollo at (727) 892-2249 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @malenacarollo.