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FPL seeks a $695 million rate increase; would cost customers $6.80 a month

Florida Power and Light Company today sent notice to the Florida Public Service Commission that it will be asking for a $695 million rate increase, this one to take effect  in 2013, that would cost average of $6.80 a month for the typical residential customer bill.

FPL is the largest utility in Florida with 4.5 million customers and approximately 10,000 employees. The company last sought a $1 billion rate increase two years ago, but state regulators rejected all but about $75 million of it as unjustified. At the urging of the FPL and other utility companies, the state Senate subsequently refused to confirm two of those PSC members who rejected the increase and a legislatively-controlled nominating commission refused to reappoint two others.

The newly configured PSC in October approved the company's requests for rate increases to pay for nuclear projects. The PSC has also replaced the executive director with Braulio Baez, a former PSC commissioner and lawyer for utility companies. 

The company said in a statement that the additional revenues are needed "to pay for increases in the cost of doing business and to begin paying for a new, high-efficiency natural gas power plant after it enters service in June 2013."

The company said the plant will use "considerably less fuel to generate electricity, which in turn lowers customers' total bills. The company's existing rate agreement, which effectively froze base rates for three years, expires at the end of 2012."

FPL defended its need to charge customers more, saying the company has "the lowest bill in the state" with "reliability that is among the best in the nation and award-winning customer service.''

"That is an exceptional value proposition,'' said FPL CEO Armando J. Olivera in a statement. "We know there is never a good time for an increase, and we are particularly mindful of the impact of these uncertain economic times on our customers and our state. We have worked hard to reduce costs and improve our efficiency, and we will continue to do so to keep bills low and reliability high. We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate how we will put these new rates to work for our customers."