LCEC – Lee County Electric Cooperative

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Florida Electric Rate Debate

Florida Electric Rate Debate

According to a recent report by the University of Florida’s Public Utility Research Center, Florida’s electric rates were higher in recent years than the other Southeastern states because the state’s utilities use more natural gas. LCEC has worked hard to manage the part of the bill they can control related to operation and maintenance costs and has not had a base rate increase in three years. The LCEC Board of Trustees continually monitors the financial position of the cooperative and addresses fluctuations in the cost of purchased power to ensure financial stability and has not adjusted the power cost reflected on customers’ bill in several years either.

In 2003, Florida utilities started using more natural gas, the report says. Natural gas prices steadily increased in Florida from $2.50 per million British thermal units, in 1990 to over $10 in 2008 while coal went from about $1.80 to almost $3 during that time.

Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility and one of LCEC’s power suppliers, is rebuilding two of its plants to run on natural gas and plans to propose converting a third one by the end of the year.

Despite the benefits, using more natural gas “comes with a cost,” Florida Public Service Commission Chairman Art Graham said in a recent statement. “Florida’s residential customers pay 10 to 20 percent more than they would in other Southeast states.”

Not all critics agree with the recent report stating that the data is not the most current and the recent drop in natural gas prices make the fuel competitive with coal and nuclear power. In fact, a Florida Power and Light spokesperson was recently quoted in the Palm Beach Post stating that the cost of burning coal has increased while natural gas prices have decreased by 70 percent since the peak in 2009.

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