Fuel Prices Have Driven Utilities Upward
By TONY HOLT
Blame it on fuel.
Electricity bills in Hernando County are nearly 50 percent higher today than they were 10 years ago.
There are many variables to consider – transportation costs, the rising price of coal, transformer costs, the ever-changing world market – but utility bills have increased and decreased along with gas prices.
"Fuel costs have practically doubled in 10 years," said Progress Energy spokeswoman Suzanne Grant. "We are not allowed to make any profit off of that."
Both she and David Lambert, spokesman for Wilthlacoochee River Electric Cooperative, pointed to the 10-year rise in fuel costs as the culprit for the higher electric bills.
In January 1999, the average electric bill for a Progress Energy household that used 1,000 kilowatts was $84.88. For a WREC customer, it was $82.03.
Every line item in an electric bill must be approved by the Florida Public Service Commission. Customer charges are a way for power companies to make a profit, but everything else is strictly regulated.
Customer charges have decreased from $8.85 per 1,000 kilowatts in 1993 to $8.03 today.
The looming cap and trade system that would regulate carbon gas emissions would add another line item to a customer’s bill – and perhaps add another $50 per month, Lambert said.
"That’s the most-pressing issue right now for utility companies," he said.
For the time being, electric companies must contend with the volatile fuel market.
In January of this year, the monthly bill for a Progress Energy customer using 1,000 kilowatts of power was $137.87. That has since gone down to $122.79.
WREC customers have paid $121.34 per month since the beginning of the year. That’s up from $115.83.
The average usage per Florida household is 1,400 kilowatts, Lambert said.
Other charges in the bill include energy conservation cost recovery, which is designed to recover the cost of energy management programs, and an environmental cost recovery clause, which is used to recover environmental costs that government agencies have imposed on the company.
The charges for the upcoming nuclear power plants for Levy County also are part of the bill.
The lowered nuclear cost recover charges were part of the reason for Progress Energy dropping monthly utility bills by 11 percent for the remainder of the year.
Grant said Progress Energy’s rates are the same for residents in rural Brooksville as they are for people in downtown St. Petersburg.
Sumter Electric Cooperative services 161 customers in Hernando County. Its price numbers were not submitted before press time.