Pensacola - More than 60 people voiced their opinion to the State Public Service Commission today during a public hearing regarding Gulf Power’s 23-percent base rate increase request.
Despite Gulf Power CEO Mark Crosswhite’s justifications for the increase, many residents claimed the proposed increase was ludicrous given the current economy. While he acknowledged that many customers were on a fixed income and many have seen their bills increase because of environmental requirements and increasing fuel costs, he said a base rate increase had been delayed as long as possible.
“We have not asked for a base increase in 10 years since 2001, and we would not be asking now if it were not necessary to continue to provide reliable electric service,” he said.
Unlike other business, Crosswhite said Gulf Power couldn’t slow down production until the economy improved or delay expansion until the cost of construction or copper wiring decreased. He said the utility company must plan long-term by building infrastructure to support its customers. Part of that long-term plan is purchasing land in North Escambia County for a new generator and possibly a new power plant.
“The cost of making and delivering electricity has increased but our base prices have not,” he said. “So while we are reluctant to ask for an increase we must do so.”
The 23-percent base rate increase represents the total increase, but Gulf Power spokesperson Jeff Rogers clarified after the meeting that customers would only see a 10-percent increase on their bill if the base-rate increase was approved.
For more on this story, see the September 22 issue of the Navarre Press or subscribe online.