TALLAHASSEE - Tampa Electric Co. is asking the state for more time to seal a deal with a mystery company that could become the utility's biggest customer.
TECO has asked the state's Florida Public Service Commission to approve its request for an extension at the commission's meeting next week, records released Friday show.
The potential customer's identity is a secret under a state law that allows the name to be considered TECO's "proprietary confidential business information." The Public Service Commission regulates the state's investor-owned utilities, triggering its involvement.
Commissioners already had approved a special contract between TECO and the business, which is "considering building a large manufacturing facility" somewhere in the utility's service area.
TECO serves all of Hillsborough County and parts of Polk, Pasco and Pinellas counties.
The previous contract expired July 4, and the commission's staff is recommending it be extended to Nov. 4.
The company also is looking at other sites around the country, and the cost of electricity is key to its decision, according to a Public Service Commission staff memo. It needs more time to complete its selection process.
If the company builds here, it "will create jobs, and should provide economic benefits . to the state of Florida," the commission staff said.
TECO also asked that staff be given authority to grant another two-month extension beyond November, if needed, without getting commission approval to do so.
"Tampa Electric wants to ensure that our service area remains a viable candidate for the location of the new manufacturing facility," TECO spokesman Patrick Ho said in an email to the Tribune. "Accordingly, we requested an extension of the special contract previously granted."
When asked Friday, Ho declined to name the company.
The potential customer would use so much power that TECO would connect them directly to transmission-level power lines with up to 230,000 volts of capacity.
That need is more than three times that of its current largest users, such as phosphate mining operations.
"The customer's new facility would be a very large, non-firm electric load with electric supply costs representing a substantial portion of the cost of its operations," the Public Service Commission memo said.
The commission defines "non-firm" power as a power without "guaranteed continuous availability." Because it is interruptible, such electricity often costs less.
Many commercial and industrial operations are non-firm power customers, commission spokeswoman Bev DeMello said.
"Some residental customers, who participate in load management programs, also have equipment, such as air conditioners or water heaters, that may be cycled (turned off) for limited periods of time," DeMello said.