Street flooding in Gulfport, Florida from Hurricane Idalia storm surge. By Seán Kinane/WMNF News (30 Aug. 2023)

FL - Florida says Duke Energy can collect $92 million from customers to recover costs from Hurricane Idalia

State regulators Tuesday approved a plan by Duke Energy Florida that includes collecting $91.9 million from customers in 2024 to cover costs related to Hurricane Idalia.

The plan, approved unanimously by the Florida Public Service Commission, will take effect in January.

To help cushion the blow to customers’ monthly bills, Duke also will spread out costs that it already is collecting for a series of earlier storms, such as Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.

In all, Duke is expected to collect $166.1 million in storm-related costs from customers in 2024.

The Public Service Commission has long allowed utilities to recoup storm-restoration costs from customers, and the issue was anticipated in a 2021 Duke rate settlement.

The Category 3 Idalia made landfall Aug. 30 in the Keaton Beach area of Taylor County before crossing a largely rural region of North Florida.

It had traveled north through the Gulf of Mexico, causing damage in some coastal communities.

“Hurricane Idalia impacted more than 200,000 customers in DEF’s (Duke Energy Florida’s) service territory,” the utility said in an October filing at the Public Service Commission. “More than 5,000 line workers, tree professionals, damage assessors and support personnel were staged strategically throughout the state to respond and restore power to customers and communities as quickly and safely as possible.”

Duke in April began recovering what is expected to be $431.4 million for storm-related costs from hurricanes Ian, Nicole, Elsa, Eta and Isaias and Tropical Storm Fred.

Those costs were slated to be recovered over a year-long period through March 2024. But as part of the plan approved Tuesday, the remaining costs from those storms will be spread throughout 2024, rather than collected only during the first three months.

While Duke customers will face the Idalia costs, the utility said customers’ total monthly bills to decrease in 2024.

In addition to spreading out the earlier storm-related costs, the reduction would stem from issues such as lower fuel costs.

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