Additional Fla. public power utilities help customers in response to pandemic
The list of public power utilities in Florida that are reducing customers’ electric bills in response to the COVID-19 pandemic is growing. Eight more utilities and cities detailed plans that they are taking to ease the financial burden on customers.
The City of Bushnell, City of Clewiston, City of Fort Meade, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), Keys Energy Services, Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA), Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) and the City of Winter Park are the most recent utilities and cities to announce moves to help their customers in response to the pandemic.
The announcements follow similar actions taken by seven other public power utilities in the state. Combined, these 15 local utilities serve more than 3 million Floridians, who will benefit from approximately $50 million in savings over the next several months.
The Florida Municipal Power Agency, a wholesale generator that provides power and other value-added services to 31 public power utilities in Florida, has been working with these utilities and cities to consider opportunities to help customers experiencing hardships.
“People are facing financial challenges and will need help paying bills,” said Jacob Williams, General Manager and CEO of the Florida Municipal Power Agency. “We are working with the utilities to consider opportunities that will help keep much-needed money in the pockets of customers.”
OUC on April 14 said its Board of Commissioners approved recommendations to help OUC customers and the Central Florida community impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. OUC will offer immediate relief by lowering utility bills in May and will provide additional solutions to customers over the next year. Details include
- $7.5 million to lower electric fuel rates for May bills, representing a 11.4% overall decrease for residential customers and 11.2% to 19.7% reduction for commercial customers
- $2.6 million contribution to Project CARE, OUC’s utility assistance program for qualified residential customers
- $1.5 million for utility bill payment assistance to qualified small businesses
- $500,000 for new OUC Power Pass customers
KUA on April 10 said it will utilize up to $8 million to offset fuel expenses for its residential and commercial customers, beginning May 1. Residential customers who use 1,000 kWh of electricity per month could see their May bills drop by 15 percent. Similar savings could continue monthly through August.
KUA anticipates the pandemic will impact its customers harder than most areas of the country because of the region’s strong ties to the travel, tourism and hospitality industries, which have been hit especially hard by the economic fallout from the virus.
“While KUA is sensitive to the needs of its customers, we especially want to help alleviate some of their concern for basic needs such as reliable and affordable electricity during this difficult time,” said KUA president and general manager Brian Horton.
In addition to the fuel credits, the utility’s board of directors on April 1 voted to expand the dollar-for-dollar match on all donations made to its Good Neighbor Utility Assistance Fund and provide an additional $50,000.
Keys Energy Services
The board of Florida public power utility Keys Energy Services recently approved implementing temporary rate relief for all Keys Energy Services customers. The approved rate relief will result in a 10 percent decrease to all energy bills in May and June, with board direction to reevaluate in June if additional relief is needed for July.
The rate relief is made possible by the deferment of non-urgent capital projects and system-wide austerity measures.
Other Florida utilities still considering action in response to the pandemic
Several other FMPA public power utilities are considering short-term reductions, with decisions being made soon. However, “not all cities will be able to offer this due to various financial situations,” Williams said.
“Many of the public power utilities that are reducing bills are small or medium-sized utilities, said Williams. “It’s great to see the utilities doing the right thing and lowering costs where they can.”