CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Air conditioners are working overtime in Southwest Florida, as the area grapples with the hottest month of July in 40 years.
At the same time, power customers are noticing their electric bills skyrocketing.
Inside the offices of the Lee County Electric Cooperative, officials admit the phones have been ringing off the hook from angry customers.
“It is painful for our customers to get that bill. But it’s also painful for us because our hands are tied,” said Karen Ryan with LCEC.
“This is something that is out of our control.”
The reason Ryan says prices are out of LCEC’s control is that the company is a distribution cooperative.
The company doesn’t generate its own power, instead it has a contract to buy power from Florida Power and Light.
In June, the LCEC Board of Trustees approved a price increase, the third so far of the year, due to major increases in the price of natural gas which makes up nearly 73% of FPL’s generation source.
In April of 2021, natural gas sold for $2.73 per metric million of BTUs.
One year later, in May, it sold for nearly $9.
“A 300% increase for natural gas in the last year,” said Ryan.
“So that’s a substantial increase. We are under recovering. I’m sure that our power supplier is also under recovering. They pass the cost onto us. And we pass it onto our customers.”
Unlike other industries that can buy commodities far into the future to help control the costs to customers, the co-op is charged based on the amount of power used.
Fox4 Investigates was the only local station to see the current financials for LCEC.
They show in June the company spent more than $20 million more on power than they charged their customers.
“The power cost adjustment allows you to recover those costs,” said Ryan.
As far as when rates might go down.
“The experts are saying it is going to last a little bit longer.”