JUNO BEACH, Fla. - Summer in Florida means more than just hot, humid weather. Higher temperatures typically mean higher electric bills – mainly due to air conditioning use. This summer Florida Power & Light Company knows customers will notice even higher bills --- 19 to 28 percent higher --- even if you use the same amount of electricity as you did last year. This is due to increased fuel costs to make electricity combined with the normal summer increase in energy consumption. FPL offers customers many ways to take some of the heat out of this summer’s energy bills.
“FPL is concerned about the impact higher bills have on customers,” said Marlene Santos, vice president of customer service for FPL. “That is why FPL is doing everything in its power to mitigate costs and help customers understand what makes up their electric bill so they can better manage it.”
Controlling costs through fuel diversity, power plant efficiencies and purchasing power
Even though FPL has no control over world fuel markets, the company has and will continue to take steps to diversify the fuel it burns at power plants and reduce the cost of making electricity by making its power plants as efficient as possible. Here are some steps taken by FPL:
The company uses a variety of fuels to help stabilize costs including nuclear, coal, purchased power, oil and natural gas. By using a variety of fuel sources, we are stabilizing fuel costs and doing what we can to spread the costs of energy away from the ones that are increasing most quickly. In fact, FPL makes maximum use of its nuclear generating units to provide as much low cost power from these non-oil and gas-fired units as possible.
Since 1999, FPL has spent more than $2.3 billion to re-power older, less efficient generating units and build new, state-of-the-art natural gas-fired units in order to improve fuel efficiency – they now take less fuel to produce the same amount of electricity. The result of that investment is that FPL’s non-nuclear power plant fleet is 12 percent more efficient than just five years ago. In addition, a number of the power plants have dual fuel capabilities, so they can burn either oil or natural gas depending on which is least expensive at a particular point in time.
FPL buys only the fuel required to meet customers’ electricity consumption needs. The company also employs a strategy called fuel hedging – aimed at reducing fuel price volatility and delivering greater price certainty -- as a method of providing some level of protection against volatility in fuel prices. Through the hedging strategy we saved customers more than $600 million in 2005.
Through operational efficiencies, FPL has reduced base rates by 15 percent and saved its customers more than $4 billion since 1999. During the same time, FPL's fuel costs have more than doubled. Today, fuel costs account for 54 percent of residential customers' electric bills. FPL makes no profit on the fuel portion of its customers' bills as this cost is a direct pass through.
The cost of weather
Summer bills are typically much higher than the rest of the year because air conditioners must work much harder to keep homes comfortable during hot weather months. Air conditioning accounts for more than half of a typical Florida home’s energy usage in the summer.
To lessen the impact of weather and fuel costs on bills, FPL recommends these tips for using energy efficiently:
- Set the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher with the thermostat fan switch on “auto.” For additional savings, raise the thermostat to 82 degrees or warmer when away from home.
- Install a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature automatically and maximize energy savings.
- Clean or replace the air conditioner’s filter every month to trim cooling costs and help the unit run more efficiently.
- Turn ceiling fans off in unoccupied rooms. A fan that runs constantly uses electricity unnecessarily.
- Replace the 60-watt porch light with a 15-watt compact fluorescent bulb. It will cost about $10, but will save nearly $50 over its 2-1/2 year life.
FPL offers an online Summer Tool Kit at www.FPL.com/summertoolkit, which includes a free Online Home Energy Survey – a personalized, in-depth analysis of a home’s energy use to uncover waste and produce detailed reports about ways to save. The survey is available in English and Spanish.
Even with the higher cost of fuel used to produce it, electricity remains a good value when compared with other crucial U.S. commodities according to the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). In a recent report EEI concluded that despite record electricity consumption, electric bills have become a smaller fraction of overall household budgets. (For a copy of the report go to www.eei.org.) For example, the average FPL residential customer uses 1,183 KWh a month or about $4.23 each day, excluding taxes and other fees.
FPL recognizes that for some customers, even $4.23 per day can be a hardship. The company has established programs to help customers on limited or fixed incomes, such as many seniors, with energy assistance funding, weatherization repair, and more. “Through a combination of energy conservation programs, we hope we can make a difference and help our customers manage through this period of high fuel prices,” said Santos. “We are committed to doing our part to support families who are having difficulty paying their electric bill.”
Help is available for qualifying customers through:
FPL’s Care To Share program. FPL has partnered with a vast network of social service organizations located throughout our service territory to help customers when job loss, illness or an accident strikes a family or individual. Care To Share provides one-time assistance funds to customers in crisis situations who are unable to pay their electric bill. In 2006, FPL shareholders are contributing $1 million to Care To Share. Since 1994, nearly $7.2 million has been raised to help more than 42,000 families. Customers who would like to join FPL in helping others may do so by donating to FPL’s Care To Share program on the monthly electric bill. Access additional information about Care To Share by visiting www.FPL.com/community.
FPL’s 62Plus program. This program extends the payment due date one full month for customers who rely on fixed income payments, regardless of age. Find out more about this program at www.FPL.com/residential/62plus.shtml.
Managing your electric bill
FPL also offers customers a Budget Billing® program. Budget Billing® can help prevent major fluctuations in the electric bill as it evens out your energy costs throughout the year so you pay about the same amount each month. While this program is not a money-saving program, it is a great way to manage the electric bill month-to-month. Customers may sign-up for Budget Billing® at www.FPL.com.
Customers can also join the On Call ® program and save more than $100 a year. By going “On Call,” customers agree to allow select major appliances – central air conditioner and heater, water heater or pool pump to be interrupted for short periods of time. This occurs only when absolutely necessary to help FPL conserve energy during times of very heavy usage. In exchange for making appliances available to go On Call, FPL will credit the customers’ electric bill every month – even if the appliances are never interrupted.
Customers are encouraged to visit FPL.com for full information on FPL’s energy conservation and incentive programs or to learn more about how fuel costs are impacting electric bills.