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FPL says its bills are ‘well below’ the national average. Here’s what we found.


By Ron Hurtibise

This story originally appeared in the SunSentinel on November 12, 2021


When Florida Power & Light announces a rate increase, the utility often tells customers how cheap its bills will remain after the increase takes effect. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

FPL’s Oct. 26 announcement following approval by state utility regulators of four consecutive annual rate increases was no different. What the company calls a “typical” customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month will pay 18% more by 2025 compared to this year.

Even after the increases, that “typical” bill in 2025 is “expected to remain well below the national average,” FPL says.

But FPL does not acknowledge that their “typical” customer — dependent on air conditioning year-round — pays monthly bills that exceed the national average: FPL’s residential customers, on average, consume significantly more electricity than 1,000 kWh a month ($101.70), and more than average households across the nation, according to a South Florida Sun Sentinel analysis of nationwide utility data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Activists call FPL’s statement misleading. But FPL stands by its method of comparing itself to other utilities.

“The 1,000-kWh benchmark is a standard that is used throughout the electric utility industry” for “comparison purposes,” FPL spokesman Bill Orlove said in an emailed statement. “The typical bill benchmark is one indicator of one company’s performance against another.”

Average bills, Orlove said, “are not used for benchmarking because they do not account for what can be significant differences in climate throughout the country.”

What’s our average monthly bill?

Dividing the 64 billion kilowatt hours of electricity that FPL sold to residential customers last year by the utility’s 4.5 million residential accounts shows that the average household consumed 1,169 kWh a month in 2020.

Among 1,310 U.S. utilities with 1,000 or more customers, just 353 of those utilities reported higher average monthly consumption.

The average monthly bill for FPL residential customers is actually $122.07, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which tracks energy prices and consumption for the federal government.

And that average bill is not “well below the national average,” the data shows.

Among those 1,310 utilities, customers of more than half of them — 732 — paid less on average each month than FPL’s customers.

FPL’s average monthly bill also was higher than the $116.29 average paid by the nation’s 120 million households last year.

Use of the 1,000 kWh comparison is “inaccurate and misleading,” because “the average customer uses significantly more than 1,000 kWh per month,” says Natalia Brown, climate justice program manager for the activist organization Catalyst Miami, which opposed FPL’s four-year rate plan in hearings before the Florida Public Service Commission.

The organization contends that FPL’s investor-owners have fought proposals that would require FPL to help its customers conserve electricity and reduce their bills.

Powering our homes

Many Floridians’ electricity use is high. In an informal poll of members of the Facebook group, Margate Florida Residents, 30 respondents reported paying more than $100 a month, while just seven reported paying less.

“Last month’s bill was $306 even though most days kids are in school and parents are at work,” said Bill Busch, who lives in a 2,400-square-foot home with a cement roof, insulated attic, impact windows and a newer air conditioner.

Leslie Vetter said she pays $145 for her one-bedroom condominium. She keeps her air conditioner set at 71 degrees.

Rosie Goldman said her bill is “consistently over $400 a month” and more than $500 a month during summer months.

Among the customers who manage to keep their prices below $100, Kayla Marie Matarus said she lives in a 900-square-foot apartment and pays just $35 a month. Kim Tardy said she lives in a two-bedroom condominium and pays $69 a month on average while keeping her air conditioner set at 77 degrees.

Meanwhile, Orlove, the FPL spokesman, called comparisons of average bills “misleading” and “inappropriate.”

Comparing prices

One way in which FPL’s prices can be seen as “well below the national average” would be a straight comparison of price per kilowatt hour.

Based on EIA data, FPL’s price of 10.44-cents per kilowatt hour is 335th cheapest of the 1,310 utilities and is well below the national average of 13.15 cents per kilowatt hour reported by the EIA.

Multiplying all utilities’ prices per kilowatt hour by the “typical” 1,000 vaults FPL close to the top of the “cheapest” list.

Despite the advent of energy efficient lightbulbs, appliances and air conditioning systems, household energy consumption in Florida and the overall U.S. increased 12.6% between 1990 and 2020, EIA figures show.

In 1990, FPL’s definition of a “typical” consumer would have been more accurate.

Average consumption that year was 1,013 kWh among Florida households and 793 kWh nationwide.

Three decades later, average consumption was 1,142 kWh in Florida and 893 kWh nationwide. Most of that increase occurred prior to the 2008 economic downturn, according to the EIA.


Ron Hurtibise covers business and consumer issues for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise or by email at [email protected].


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