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FPL Customers To Receive Hurricane Matthew Recovery Refund

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
U.S. Navy
The Florida Channel
A satellite image of Hurricane Mathew in 2016.

Florida Power & Light customers will see a small, one-time credit in August that in part corrects an “over-recovery” cost for Hurricane Matthew, which whipped the east coast in 2016.

The Florida Public Service Commissioner on Tuesday approved the $27.7 million agreement between the Juno Beach-based power giant and the Office of Public Counsel. The adjustment should equate to about a $3 credit for a residential customer who uses the industry standard of 1,000 kilowatt hours a month.

The credit is “in the best interest of FPL customers,” Public Service Commission Chairman Art Graham said.

“The agreement provides a reasonable recovery amount, with funds available for future storm recovery, if needed,” he said.

The Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Industrial Power Users Group, which represents large business users of electricity, took no position on the agreement. But FPL officials said refunds would also be issued to business customers.

FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy called the agreement a “sensible resolution.”

“It speaks to the fact that we never lose sight of our responsibility to operate efficiently while executing an aggressive and rapid response to a major hurricane to safely restore power to all customers as quickly as possible,” Silagy said in a press release.

The powerful storm never made landfall in Florida but ran up the east coast, impacting nearly every county serviced by Florida Power & Light.

The company noted it was able to restore power to 99 percent of the 1.2 million customers affected by Matthew within two days.

The utility estimates it replaced more than 250 miles of wire, more than 900 transformers and more than 400 poles, in addition to clearing large amounts of vegetation, after the storm.

To recover its costs, FPL added extra charges to customers’ bills for a year, from March 1, 2017, through Feb. 28, 2018. For a residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours per month, the charge was $3.35 a month.

The company collected $322.45 million through the charge, with about $6 million listed in the agreement as “over-recovery” of costs.

The remainder of the refund, $21.7 million, comes from an accounting adjustment on the restoration costs. The one-time refund includes interest.

A similar surcharge was not imposed for Hurricane Irma, which battered the state in a pair of landfalls last September.

FPL was planning to bill customers for the $1.3 billion cost of restoring electricity after Irma. Instead, the power company joined Duke Energy and Tampa Electric, which opted to rely on savings from last year’s federal tax overhaul, which cut corporate tax rates and made numerous other changes to the federal tax code that benefited businesses.

Pensacola-based Gulf Power, the state’s fourth major utility provider, was largely spared damage from Hurricane Irma in September.