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While TECO and Duke pursue energy rate increases, Florida AARP wants opposition from residents

While Duke Energy and Tampa Electric Co. (TECO) are seeking rate increases and approval from the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC), one of the largest organizations for seniors is pushing back.

Duke is looking for one interest rate increase for three years for its nearly 2 million customers in Florida. That increase would amount to $818 million in base rates for Duke, if approved. However, the company says it expects customer bills to decrease as a result of other cost savings.

Meanwhile, TECO also wants a period of three years increase in the base interest rate amounting to more than $460 million for its 840,000 customers on Florida’s west coast starting in 2025, if the state gives the green light. That could result in higher bills, although TECO says the rates “would remain among the lowest in Florida and lower than 2023 bills.”

But Florida AARP representatives say they will try to mobilize citizens against the proposed court increases. AARP has announced that they have a new campaign shouted, “Strengthen the amplifier to keep rates low.”

But AARP Florida director Jeff Johnson said the senior action group is not entirely opposed to increases in energy rates by both utilities. They will focus more on this amount in the coming years.

“On behalf of millions of AARP members and electric customers, AARP Florida is asking the Florida Public Service Commission to dramatically reduce the proposed increase and limit profitability,” Johnson said. “We know an increase is inevitable to cover the cost of doing business, but there is no need to increase non-energy rates such as return on equity and fixed customer costs.”

TECO officials claim so reduced rates earlier this year and the proposed interest rate increase is an adjustment.

Duke officials said the rate hike will equip the company adequately to downsize the future blackouts.

Johnson said such rate hikes would hurt Florida seniors, who are more accustomed to a stable spending plan each month.

“Many Floridians, including our members, are struggling with fixed or limited incomes, exacerbated by persistent inflation,” Johnson said in a prepared statement Monday.

As part of its advocacy efforts, AARP Florida is educating customers, urging petitions and raising awareness about the significance of the rate increases.

State hearings on the proposed utility rate increases will take place June 10 through June 18 in Tampa, Tallahassee, Inverness and Largo.

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