Electric Rates May Rise Again for Area Residents, Businesses
Duke Energy, Teco Among Providers Requesting Higher Rates.
Last updated 2/3/2023 at 6:50pm
Lake Wales area customers of both Duke Energy and TECO can expect to pay significantly more for their electricity use if proposed rate hikes are approved.
Both companies are among a group of Florida utilities seeking rate increases and extra funds for storm recovery expenses from the Florida Public Service Commission. Both companies have reported increased profits.
Duke has two separate rate requests pending, including one to recover the company's 2022 fuel costs, as well as storm recovery costs. Together the requests total some $1.23 Billion.
Electrical costs have risen sharply, largely due to the rising cost of natural gas, which is used to produce most power in Florida.
According to a statement issued by Duke Energy, "the monthly bill impact to a typical residential customer using 1,000 Kwh (kilowatt hours) will increase $33.49 or about 20% beginning in April." After the first 1,000 Kwh of useage, rates are significantly higher.
TECO, which serves the northernmost portion of Lake Wales, is also requesting increases, both for storm recovery and to recover higher fuel costs, but those amount to about 10% of current rates.
Many area homeowners have been turning to roof-top solar panels to reduce their electric costs. Leasing options which result in immediate monthly cost savings have become available and popular. Simply holding the amount of purchased power below the 1,000 Kwh threshold has resulted in significant savings for many. The cost of solar energy has fallen dramatically in recent years, which the cost of fossil fuels has continued a decades-long rise.
TECO is currently developing a 600-acre solar farm which sprawls across the northern edge of Lake Wales and the southern portion of Dundee. The site lies between US 27 and Scenic Highway. According to Tampa Electric Media Spokesperson Cherie Jacobs, the project will generate 74.5 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 11,500 homes.
The project will comprise some 170,000 to 200,000 panels manufactured by First Solar (FSLR), a US company that uses a thin-film photovoltaic process rather than the more common crystalline silicon panels. Jacobs noted that the project will produce no emissions and generate virtually no traffic.
TECO also touts the fact that solar energy uses no water to operate. Their solar installations thus far have saved more than two billion gallons of the precious and dwindling resource. Cooling traditional generators uses enormous amounts of water.
The City of Lake Wales recently entered into a new ten-year agreement for the use of public rights-of-way. Duke had requested a new 3-year agreement, but a local attorney had addressed the commission to call attention the the fast-changing nature of electric utility sources and options, suggesting that a much shorter term was advisable to provide future flexibility. Duke pay six percent of its local revenue to the city for that usage, amounting to $1.6 million a year. That number is expected to grow significantly as more meters are connected due to growth.