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Earthjustice Defeats Huge Rate Hike for Florida Power Customers

Gulf Power in Florida wanted to raise fixed charges for its customers by more than $30 a month, but Earthjustice obtained a settlement that withdraws the company’s proposal.

Gulf Power in Florida wanted to raise fixed charges for its customers by more than $30 a month, but Earthjustice obtained a settlement that withdraws the company’s proposal.

QiuJu Song/Shutterstock

Even with attempts by the Trump administration to roll back national progress on climate and clean energy, Earthjustice and our partners can still make a big impact on the state and local levels. Our goal is to ensure that the benefits of clean, affordable energy are available to everyone, and to that end we recently reached a settlement with Gulf Power in Florida that will both save consumers money and incentivize them to save energy.

Utility regulation is one of the wonkiest parts of environmental law. It’s all the sweeter, then, that Earthjustice’s Florida office has emerged from a local regulatory hearing with a solid victory for customers in the Florida Panhandle. 

Earthjustice represented citizens who opposed a proposal by Gulf Power to increase the monthly fixed charge on residential customers' electricity bills from the already high amount of about $18 to nearly $50. Fixed charges are what customers pay without using even a single kilowatt hour of energy. So even if a customer worked hard to save energy, he or she would still have ended up paying more per month under Gulf Power's rate plan. We didn't think that was fair. 

Even if a customer worked hard to save energy, he or she would still have ended up paying more per month under Gulf Power's rate plan. We didn't think that was fair.

This rate restructuring proposal was unprecedented in the United States and would have hit families with low and fixed incomes especially hard.

A member of the League of Women Voters of Florida speaks out against a proposed rate hike by Gulf Power at a Florida Public Service Commission hearing.
A member of the League of Women Voters of Florida speaks out against a proposed rate hike by Gulf Power at a Florida Public Service Commission hearing.
Courtesy of the League of Women Voters of Florida

On behalf of the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Earthjustice went to the Florida Public Service Commission to challenge the proposal. The commission is responsible for making sure utilities charge customers a fair price for energy. The alliance and the league brought their members out in force at commission hearings to oppose the rate increase, and the media picked up the story.

Earthjustice and Gulf Power were able to reach a settlement, which the Florida Public Service Commission approved on April 4th. Under the terms of the settlement, Gulf Power agreed to withdraw its proposal to increase rates. As a result, customers will see their fixed charges increase by only about $1 a month, instead of $30.

Under the terms of the settlement, Gulf Power agreed to withdraw its proposal to increase rates. As a result, customers will see their fixed charges increase by only about $1 a month, instead of $30.

The great news is that all Gulf Power customers will now benefit from lower fixed charges—and that people who save energy by using solar or geothermal power and by practicing energy efficiency won't face a big, mandatory charge on their monthly bills.