VERO BEACH — City electric customers hit with record-high bills for heating their homes during an extended January cold snap will soon see a little bit of relief when the city passes on a $944,000 refund to its customers.
The rebate, to be delivered over six months, will total approximately $15 per 1,000 kilowatt hours. So, for the months of March through August, a person with an average monthly usage of 2,000 kWh will receive a $5.00 rebate per month for six months, adding up to $30. Councilman Ken Daige emphasized that he wanted the money returned as possible to ease customers’ suffering.
“I’d like it done March 1, we need to do something now,” Daige said.
Councilman Brian Heady urged the city to pay back the rebate in a lump sum, such as Florida Power and Light did in January, to make the most impact in peoples’ bills. Heady was overruled on this proposal as the council sided with Acting Utility Director John Lee’s position that customers would be confused seeing their bills go down by a large amount and then back up the next month. Metering out the rebate, Lee said, would minimize the disappointment.
Lee said he and the staff would work to program in the rebate so it would begin appearing on bills generated in March. He said the cost of doing so would only be about $200 in staff time.
Lee also presented a chart showing the meaning of the new electric bills, as requested by Heady. During an appearance at the Indian River Board of County Commissioners, Heady was asked by Chairman Peter O’Bryan to help customers understand the new format of the bill, as many people are seeing the Bulk Power Adjustment portion larger than their Energy Charge and wonder why this is so.
The old customer charge rose from $7.21 for customers in the city to $7.95 per customer. This was the rate increase approved by council in late 2009. The next category is the energy charge, which assesses customers 4.4 cents per kWh for usage up to 1,000 kWh and 6.9 cents per kWh for usage over 1,000. The bulk power adjustment, which has replaced the fuel cost adjustment, pays for the city’s cost of obtaining power from various sources and of producing power at the power plant. This cost will rise and fall depending on the city’s aggregate usage and other factors.
“The bulk power cost adjustment includes the cost of power from the St. Lucie nuclear plant plus the cost of transmission, the cost of power from the Stanton 1 and 2 plants plus transmission, the cost for fuel that we burn at our own plant and the cost of power the city receives over and above those sources.”
Lee said that the bulk power cost adjustment on the January bills was sometimes very high because of extreme cold weather for our area, people used more heat. Lee said using the heat sucks up about three times more energy than air conditioning the same space.
“It was as if everything that could be working against us did,” Lee said. “Those discussions that we had for months and months were lost because the bottom line of the bill was higher.”
If customers divide their bill by the number of kilowatts hours used, Lee said, they will see that the rate has gone down from 15.9 cents per kWh in late 2009 to 12.6 cents for kWh on the new system.
Heady seemed satisfied with the billing explanation, but not with the city’s rates, which on the new Orlando Utilities contract are still about one third higher than Vero’s neighbors who are served by FP&L.
“I am not still not happy with the bills and I won’t be until Florida Power and Light,” Heady said, referring to the city’s ongoing talks with FP&L about possibly purchasing the power system and taking over the city’s 34,000 customers.