Eye on the Tropics

Duke, FPL customers could pay for Hurricane Irma cost repairs

Duke Energy and FPL will have two ways to pass on the storm recovery costs to its customers.
9 Investigates reporter Daralene Jones has been digging into this issue for two days and learned not only can the utility companies tack on a storm recovery surcharge, they can also sell bonds that the customers would be forced to pay for.
The Florida Legislature approved the measure in 2005.
Duke has not issued bonds and has no current surcharges for storm costs. However, FPL customers are paying for bonds and a surcharge, which equals an extra $5 a month on a customer’s utility bill.
Duke and FPL customers will likely be paying another surcharge for Irma. Both will be allowed to petition the Public Service Commission for a surcharge to pay for the repairs following the hurricane.
That money would typically come from the utilities storm recovery fund, but records 9 Investigates obtained show Duke had only $60 million on hand before Irma.
FPL was in the red with $203 million because it wiped out $93 million after Hurricane Matthew, last year.
FPL filed a petition for a surcharge that shows costs related to Hurricane Matthew reached $318 million.

The latest earnings reports show Duke Energy earned $686 million in the second quarter of this year while FPL earned $526 million. Both are increases of about 100 million from the same time last year.
Both utilities are in the early stages of hardening its systems against hurricanes, even though the Public Service Commission demanded changes in 2006.
Some state lawmakers said they’re committed to push harder through legislative action.
“Look at the past history of the rate cases that have been granted and what they've been doing with that money. Each storm recovery surcharge typically lasts about a year, but can be renewed,” said Rep. Jason Brodeur, (R) from Seminole County.
The bonds issued are long term. FP&L customers have been paying off the 2006 bond for 11 years and it will stay on the customer’s bill until 2019.
Public utilities like OUC and KUA are eligible to apply for storm recovery costs from FEMA.
A Duke Energy representative apologized Tuesday morning to the 37,000 customers who are still without power.
Duke had originally said it would have power restored Sunday at midnight.