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TECO and Duke customers will have access to local rate hike hearings for the first time in 15 years

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For TECO customers, the average bill would rise to $160.93 a month in January 2025. And for Duke customers, it would mean an increase of $16.48 per month.

For the first time in 15 years, rate hearings for electric utilities will be held in the greater Tampa Bay region where their customers can comment.

Both Duke Energy Florida and Tampa Electric filed requests in April to increase their electricity rates next year.

If approved, that could result in an average annual rate growth of 4% from 2025 to 2027 for Duke customers, which could mean an increase of $16.48 per month in 2025.

For TECO customers, the average bill would rise to $160.93 a month in January 2025, an increase of 62% since 2019, according to Food and Water Watch, which said that’s over twice the rate of inflation during that period.

Clean energy advocates say it would be cheaper for customers if utilities used renewable energy, like solar, instead of relying on fossil fuels— which have volatile prices, to make energy.

Plus, the energy sector is the highest emitter of climate warming greenhouse gases for the greater Tampa Bay region, according to a recent report from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council.

So, advocates argue the switch to renewable energy would lower emissions and customer costs.

The Florida Public Service Commission, which usually holds rate case hearings in Tallahassee, will decide whether to approve the hikes this year.

Brooke Ward, with Food and Water Watch, said the PSC “has become a rubber stamp for these rate cases.”

A recent Florida Supreme Court case determined the regulators didn’t adequately justify a large rate increase for Florida Power and Light customers in 2022.

The court said the rate increases need to be in the public interest, and that they must be “fair, just, and reasonable.”

Ward said a takeaway from the ruling is that the commission needs to take customer testimony into higher account.

"So, this really is going to be the first test case of that... I anticipate we're going to hear a lot of moving testimony from people who have been impacted by skyrocketing electricity costs,” Ward said.

She and her colleagues with the Hillsborough Affordable Energy Coalition have been requesting these in-district meetings. That moved Hillsborough County commissioners to write a letter to the PSC asking it to take that action back in April of 2023.

“There are some service areas that are not getting in-district meetings. And so, I'd say that what we are seeing here is a direct result of organizing,” Ward said about the meetings coming to the Tampa region.

Two in-person rate case hearings will be held for Duke customers Wednesday: one is at 10 a.m. at the Citrus County Auditorium in Inverness, and another is at 6 p.m. at the Parks and Conservation Resources Magnolia Room in Largo.

“There has been a really big pushback, though, that Duke is not holding an in-district hearing for its Central Florida customers. A huge portion, nearly 500,000 of Duke’s customers, live around Orlando, and Orange and Seminole counties,” Ward said.

For Duke customers who can’t make the in-person meetings in Inverness and Largo, two virtual options will be available on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.

If you want to speak at a Duke hearing, you can register here.

TECO's in-person rate hearing will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Brandon campus of Hillsborough Community College, where a rally against the hikes will start at 9 a.m.

There will also be two virtual meetings available for TECO customers: Monday at 6 p.m. and Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.

If you want to speak at a TECO hearing, register here.

Click here to keep up with the PSC's meeting schedule.

My main role for WUSF is to report on climate change and the environment, while taking part in NPR’s High-Impact Climate Change Team. I’m also a participant of the Florida Climate Change Reporting Network.