FPL Asks Justices to ‘Expedite’ Rate Appeal

TALLAHASSEE — Pointing to a “strong interest in obtaining finality,” Florida Power & Light on Monday asked the state Supreme Court to speed up consideration of a renewed fight about a 2021 settlement that increased the utility’s base electric rates.

FPL asked justices to “expedite” an appeal filed last week by a coalition of groups challenging the Florida Public Service Commission’s approval of the rate settlement.

The commission approved the settlement in 2021, and rate increases began to take effect in 2022. But in a somewhat-unusual move, the Supreme Court last year sent the case back to the commission because justices said the regulatory panel had not shown why the settlement “is in the public interest and results in rates that are fair, just and reasonable.”

The commission responded in March by issuing a more-extensive order backing the settlement. That led the coalition, made up of the groups Florida Rising, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and the League of United Latin American Citizens of Florida, to appeal the new order to the Supreme Court.

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In its motion Monday seeking expedited handling of the case, FPL said the “appeal involves a narrow set of issues warranting this (Supreme) Court’s swift resolution.”

“The parties have had the better part of three years to consider the legal issues on appeal and have already engaged in extensive briefing and oral argument before this court,” the motion said. “The (Public Service) Commission did not reopen the evidentiary record in the remand proceedings, so the issues before this court will necessarily be limited to a review of the commission’s explanation and conclusions reached in the supplemental (last month’s) final order.”

With the settlement set to expire at the end of next year, FPL said the outcome of the appeal also could affect plans to seek approval in 2025 for revised rates.

“A final determination by this court regarding the supplemental final order prior to FPL’s upcoming 2025 rate case filing will mitigate the potential for regulatory uncertainty and customer confusion during FPL’s 2025 rate case proceeding,” the motion said.

Base-rate issues are closely watched, as they involve billions of dollars, make up large portions of customers’ monthly bills and help determine utilities’ profitability.

FPL reached the four-year settlement with the state Office of Public Counsel, which represents consumers in utility issues, and other parties including the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Industrial Power Users Group and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

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After approval by the commission, the FPL settlement led to a $692 million rate increase in January 2022 and another $560 million hike in 2023. The wide-ranging settlement also included such things as allowing increases in 2024 and 2025 to pay for solar-energy projects. FPL last week filed a proposal at the Public Service Commission that seeks a go-ahead for 12 new solar-energy facilities that would start operating in 2025 under the settlement.

The coalition of groups, represented by the Earthjustice legal organization, has not filed an initial brief detailing its objections to the March order. But in the past, it has objected to a series of issues, including the size of the rate increases and FPL not meeting energy-efficiency goals.

Even if the Supreme Court agrees to FPL’s motion, it could be months before a decision is issued. The motion included a proposed schedule to file briefs and requested that oral arguments, if needed, be held in September.

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