Tampa Electric is a regulated company that is supposed to provide safe, reliable service at the lowest possible rate. TECO believes they need to increase their rates, but consumers are left wondering why.
Their current rates average just over $102 per month for the 1000 kilowatt usage level. Tampa Electric is asking to raise the monthly base rate by about 10% to cover the increasing operating costs. This would bring the same bill up to $112.
The rate increase affects the residential customers on a fractional scale, but at a public hearing Wednesday night, MaryEllen Elia says that the rate increase would add $2.3 million to the $38 million electric bill and that would be detrimental for Hillsborough County Schools. The Superintendent claims that if the rate increase passes it would cost as much as renovating an elementary school.
Karen Lewis, Director of Customer Service, spoke on behalf of TECO at the Public Service Commission hearing. She made sure to note the five-year gap since Tampa Electric’s last rate increase in 2009.
Lewis spoke about TECO’s need for an increased rate due to the addition of new power plants, power lines, and other costly improvements. She also claimed that the rates would still be the lower than other neighboring power companies, including Duke.
Many speculated that the increase is excessive and even unnecessary.
J.R. Kelly spoke out on behalf of the consumers. He believes that TECO’s rate increase is excessive. TECO is a regulated monopoly, but they already earn a high profit when compared to similar companies around the state.
Kelly and his team have been analyzing TECO’s documentation. They will also look into TECO’s $950 million purchase of New Mexico Gas Co.
Tampa Electric residential customers argued against the rate increase. Many of them claimed to receive unreliable service and were outraged to see TECO ask for an increase.
Bob Joyce, resident of Avila, said “I wouldn’t mind paying if I actually got the service.” He claims that service is so bad that “someone sneezes across the fence and the power goes out” in his community.
He was not the only Avila resident to complain. Ryan McDonald compares TECO to a school bully taking your lunch money and every time a serious complaint is made the problem is temporarily resolved, but it never lasts.
McDonald also believes that the underground power lines begin to go faulty after 30 years. And that there should be a more thorough analysis of the power lines from the power plant all the way to the home.
The Public Service Commission is expected to discuss more technical matters of the TECO rate increase sometime in September. They plan to put a final vote on the matter by early December.