Cape Coral residents are experiencing sharp increases in their electric bills from the city’s power provider Lee County Electric Cooperative this July due to high fuel prices.
“I knew it was coming because everyone was posting about it. But I also know there is nothing I can do about it,” Kim Piedt, a resident of Cape Coral since 2015, told The News-Press. “Frustrated is how I feel about it because we are locked in with LCEC.”
She has a household of four and didn’t change her energy usage, and she saw a $70 increase from June in her July bill, which is $271.
Teresa Martin, an eight-year Cape Coral resident, had a bill of $255 in July and typically had to pay less than $200 a month.
The nonprofit LCEC board approved power cost adjustments, which fluctuate month to month, in June, marking the third increase needed to recover power costs in 2022.
A customer’s average bill comes out to a total of $151.70, a $32.70, or 27%, an increase as a result of the power cost adjustments.
“For LCEC, power costs reached more than 70 percent of total expenses, putting pressure on the Board to implement an increase,” Karen Ryan, public relations manager at LCEC, said in a news release.
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LCEC is a nonprofit electric cooperative that is the power provider for Cape Coral. The cooperative has a franchise agreement with the city through 2038 and charges a 10% public service tax on each customer’s bill that goes to the city.
The cooperative buys power from Florida Power & Light and supplies it to the city of Cape Coral, and FPL has been charging LCEC more for the electricity.
“So when fuel prices are high, whatever their costs are to manufacture the power, they pass that on to us,” Ryan said.
The board meets every third Thursday and has a meeting this July, but the cost will probably not go down, Ryan said.
“The prices have not gone down, so they’re not going to be a decrease in July,” she said.
Ryand reiterated that the profit cooperative does not make a, that there have been five power cost adjustment decreases since 2014, and that LCEC customers have not seen a base rate increase in 14 years.
The city entered a partnership with LCEC several years ago after exploring the option of starting and operating a utility.
Cooperatives, like LCEC, are not governed by the Florida Public Service Commission but follow the regulatory policies and standards to serve areas that no utility wanted to serve.
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Last year, the city of Cape Coral voted to remove a money-saving exemption to the city’s electricity tax, which exempted the cost of the first 500 kilowatt hours of electricity purchased per month for residential use.
The cost of this move was estimated by the city at $26.76 per meter annually, $2.23 per month, and the funds went toward the city’s charter school.
Cape Coral Mayor John Gunter said the decision to remove the exemption isn’t what is contributing to the higher prices that residents are expiring.
He said he’s experienced frustration with his energy bill as well and said these problems are felt throughout the nation because of rising fuel costs.
“So the increase that we’re seeing now is surely not that particular aspect. The additional cost that the board approved back in June, the LCEC board, (is the reason), and that’s why we find ourselves paying a lot more for electricity than we did a couple of months ago,” Gunter told The News-Press.
He had a suggestion for customers who feel burned.
“My suggestion to them if they’re unsatisfied, I would make a recommendation and write the LCEC board,” Gunter added.
Luis Zambrano is a Watchdog/Cape Coral reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. You can reach Luis at Lzambrano@gannett.com or 239-266-5604. Follow him on Twitter @Lz2official.