Two Florida Utilities Make Deals Over Hurricane Costs

TALLAHASSEE --- Tampa Electric customers will get an $8 refund, on average, in January, as the result of a settlement with the Public Service Commission over using federal tax breaks to cover hurricane costs. The PSC approved the TECO deal along with a separate plan from Duke Energy, which doesn't include a refund.

The settlements, totaling $575 million, were reached after negotiations between the utilities, the state Office of Public Counsel, the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Industrial Power Users Group. The Office of Public Counsel represents consumers in utility issues, while the business groups represent major commercial electricity users.

The 2017 tax overhaul cut the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Jeff Wahlen, an attorney for Tampa Electric, told the commission the negotiations included “spirited debate,” with the settlements aimed at avoiding future cost disputes.

“For the last 18 months, we have been sparring with the consumer parties on dozens of issues, some big, some small,” Wahlen said. “We fought over documentation, we fought over substance of what should be recoverable. We debated processes and procedures, and it was grueling and tough on everyone involved.”

In addition to covering the storm costs, Tampa Electric also will refund $11.5 million to its customers in January, according to the utility, which has about 765,000 customers in the west-central part of Florida. Duke has about 1.8 million customers in a broader swath of the state.

Tuesday’s vote came a week after the Public Service Commission approved a plan by Florida Power & Light to use as much as $1.3 billion in federal tax savings to cover Hurricane Irma restoration costs. That plan, however, was far more controversial and did not involve a settlement.

Duke also has a proposal pending at the commission to use tax savings to cover power-restoration costs from last year’s Hurricane Michael.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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