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Public forum ahead on TECO request for 10% hike

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Published:   |   Updated: May 23, 2013 at 07:00 AM
TAMPA -

Anyone with strong opinions on Tampa Electric Co. raising power rates should mark their calendar for Wednesday.

TECO is hoping to raise rates by about 10 percent a month in January, and the Florida Public Service Commission is hosting a public forum to collect comments on the issue.

TECO officials say they need the increase to fund maintenance on the system and new transmission lines across the region.

If approved, TECO estimates the average household that uses 1,000 kilowatts a month would see its bill jump from about $102 to $113. Households that use 3,000 kilowatts would see their bill jump from about $327 to $349.

TECO’s last approved rate increase was in 2009, though customer bills were less because the cost of coal and natural gas for TECO power plants fell.

This proposed 10 percent hike is higher than other utilities have received lately, said J.R. Kelly, who heads Florida’s Office of the Public Counsel. Commercial and industrial customers would see increases of about 6 percent.

Carmen Whitten of Tampa took a resigned tone about the rate request.

“They’re going to get what they ask for,” she said while working in a Tampa landscaping store. “When’s the last time any company lowered their prices because that’s what the people asked for? Power companies and politics are the same.”

Her electric bill is lower than years past, but only because she uses two window air conditioners. She remembers growing up in Florida and going to school before they had air conditioners, so she’s accustomed to the heat.

“It’s not like there are two electric companies here to compete,” she said. “It’s a monopoly.”

TECO has about 687,000 customers in Hillsborough and portions of Polk, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

The PSC would have to approve any changes to TECO’s rates for residential customers.


rmullins@tampatrib.com

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