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Regulators approve second fee increase for FPL beginning in January

State regulators gave Florida Power & Light permission Tuesday to add a second increase in charges to customer bills starting in January, bringing to $4.70 the total new charges approved for every 1,000 kilowatt hours a month in electricity used by customers.

The Florida Public Service Commission approved the $2.50 a month increase for 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage to cover the company's fuel costs. This follows a $2.20 a month nuclear cost charge approved by regulators last week -- for the same amount of electricity used -- to cover the cost of building and planning prospective nuclear power plants.

The PSC on Tuesday also approved slight decreases in fuel costs for customers of Tampa Electric Company and Gulf Power Company. The commission is expected to vote on a fuel cost charges for  Progress Energy Florida customers tomorrow.

The increase for Florida's largest electric utility also came on the same day Gov. Rick Scott told members of the black legislative caucus that "I don't want to do anything that causes the cost of living in the state to go up.'' Scott appointed two of the five commissioners sitting on the regulatory panel.

State law allows the PSC to pass along a utility's fuel costs to customers, as well as charge customers for nuclear development plans. The companies are not allowed to make a profit on fuel charges. FPL is expected to seek a rate increase again in January to raise customer bills an estimated $1 billion a year.

According to the PSC, starting in January 2012, monthly bill charges for each utility’s residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours are:
* FPL: The current charge of $96.54 will increase to $99.04, a change of $2.50.
* TECO: The current charge of $107.02 will decrease to $106.90, a reduction of $.12.
* Gulf: The current charge of $127.16 will decrease to $125.79, a reduction of $1.37.

FPL spokesman Mark Bubriski noted that the net increase for customers beginning in January will be $2.72, "due primarily to our investments in additional nuclear power generation that are expected to deliver significant fossil fuel savings, energy-efficiency programs to help customers lower their electricity use and environmental projects to comply with federal and state air and water standards."

He added that, regardless of the increase approved by state regulators, "FPL's fuel costs are actually decreasing."

He disagreed that the nuclear costs charged to customers are "prospective." He said "the net increase in the component of the bill that includes nuclear cost recovery is $1.52, and almost 90 percent of the nuclear cost recovery amount that FPL customers will pay for in 2012 goes toward our ongoing project to increase the capacity our of existing nuclear plants. This is not 'prospective.' In fact, the first phase of the project is saving customers nearly a million dollars a month on fossil fuel costs."

More from Bubriski: "FPL is able to keep customer bills lower in large part because we have been continuously investing in our power plant fleet so we can generate power with less fossil fuel,'' he said. "In addition to making us one of the cleanest utilities in the nation, these investments have saved our customers literally billions of dollars on fuel costs."