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State regulators approve raising electric bills for FPL consumers next year

Florida’s Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved a $4.90 monthly increase for Florida Power & Light's residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours starting in January, bringing the total bill to $100.01.

The additional fees includes a $1.14 increase to FPL’s base rates for the completed upgrades to its nuclear power plant at Turkey Point 4. A year ago, the PSC approved a $350 million increase in base rates for FPL that took effect in January and allowed the company to raise rates again when three new power plants start operating.

The rate increase was based on a settlement between FPL and some of the state's largest commercial power users, did not include the Office of Public Counsel which represents the public on utility issues. The public counsel has since sued, asking the Florida Supreme Court to reject the settlement as unconstitutional. The case is still pending. 

The other increases approved by the PSC on Tuesday allow FPL to recover its costs for fuel and purchased power, nuclear development, conservation and taxes. State law allows utilities to pass along these costs to customers, with the approval of the PSC.

The costs for 1,000 kwh break down this way: fuel and purchased power, $30.67; capacity, which includes nuclear, $7.86; conservation, $3.37; environmental, $2.30; and Gross Receipts Tax, $2.50.

In August, the PSC  agreed to charge customers 43 cents per 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity in 2014 for nuclear power projects. The charge is a decrease from the $1.19 charged on customer bills in 2013 and will provide $43.5 million in revenue for FPL next year.

It is the seventh year FPL has been able to use a law intended to help utilities invest in the construction of future nuclear power plants to pay for upgrades to its existing plants. The fees approved allow FPL to put $17 million into the cost of obtaining a license for two new reactors at the company's Turkey Point power plant complex in Miami-Dade County and $26 million into upgrading existing units. 

Before legislators approved the so-called "advanced nuclear cost recovery" provision, utility companies were required to make the improvements and then seek permission from regulators to charge customers for it after the fact.

By collecting the some of the money for the upgrades in advance, the PSC -- which is appointed by Gov. Rick Scott -- said it believes FPL is operating efficiently. Consumer advocates, however, have vigorously challenged that conclusion.