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Local News

Gulf Power Mulling Rate Hike Request

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Gulf Power Company
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Gulf Power Company is considering a rate hike request aimed at bolstering its energy infrastructure. But for now, nothing is definite.

No concrete numbers are available as yet, but it’s believed any such request would be in the $115 million to $125 million range.

“What we did, is sent a letter to the Public Service Commission, letting them know that we may seek an increase later this year. But it’s an increase that wouldn’t go into effect until the summer of 2017,” said Jeff Rogers, the utility’s External Communications Manager.

The bottom line, he says, is securing the energy future of Gulf Power’s nearly 450,000 customers from Pensacola to the Big Bend.

“And it requires several things for us to do that,” Rogers says. “You’ve seen us get into renewables a lot lately. We’ve got our three huge solar installations on the military base that are going to be online next year. We’ve added more wind and we are now among the largest in Florida for wind; and this is wind out of Oklahoma.”

Also essential to having what Rogers calls a “balanced energy mix” is having the ability to provide energy when the wind isn’t blowing and sun’s not shining.

“You’ve got to have that 24/7 clean natural gas, cleaner than ever coal as part of a balanced energy mix,” said Rogers. “Also, we continue to storm-harden our infrastructure [and] continue to improve our reliability. Since 2010, we’ve improved reliability for our customers by about 40%.”

If requested and then granted by the Public Service Commission, Gulf Power would use any rate hike to cover not only current expenses, but also the long-term needs that all utilities face.

“Twenty, 30, 40 years down the line when customers want to turn that light switch on, or whatever that new electronic gadget is, we’re there to meet their needs,” Rogers says.

Gulf Power’s last rate increase request was made in 2013. The previous year, customers saw the largest price cut in the utility’s history – about ten dollars per month on average. Rates also came down about four dollars at the start of this year, because of a drop in natural gas prices.

If the point is reached to pull the trigger on the request, a detailed wish list would be submitted to the PSC on how much more green Gulf Power would need, to go greener.

“In 2002, Gulf Power was about 80% coal [to generate electricity]. Today, we are about 75% natural gas -- about six percent renewables,” said Rogers. “By the end of next year, we’re going to be at nearly 10% renewables. So you can see how that mix is kind of morphing and changing, and getting cleaner.”

Any such document filed with the Public Service Commission is expected to be a full-rate proposal, to be submitted after the new fiscal year begins October 1.