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LCEC leaders promise to improve at forecasting power costs

After customers saw skyrocketing power bills in the summer, LCEC says it needs to get better at forecasting power costs.
Posted at 6:09 PM, Aug 31, 2022

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — The CEO of the Lee County Electric Cooperative, LCEC, says the power company needs to do a better job of forecasting increasing power costs in the future.

Denise Vidal made those comments while speaking in front of the Cape Coral City Council Wednesday evening.

Mayor John Gunter said he invited Vidal to speak due to, what he called, “misinformation” about skyrocketing power bills many customers noticed over the summer.

“We did not anticipate how high natural gas would go,” said Vidal.

“So admittedly, it went up very quickly so therefore the recommendation on the (Power Cost Adjustment) had to go up to match that”

LCEC is a power distributor, meaning the company doesn’t generate its own electricity.

Instead, the cooperative buys power from Florida Power and Light exclusively.

In the early parts of the summer, when many customers noticed bills double what they would usually pay, the cost of natural gas had climbed more than 360%.

Vidal says because of that, the company still has to make up nearly $70 million, which she expects to take upwards of eight months.

“What I don’t know, what I can’t predict is what natural gas is going to do. The supply is in such disarray. When you think about the war between Russia and Ukraine and the suppliers of natural gas, they are hesitant to oversupply,” said Vidal.

Mayor Pro Tem Gloria Raso Tate expressed the concerns she’s received from several residents.

“We all got our bills and went, ‘oh my God, what happened?’” Tate said.

Several council members also asked Vidal about why customers of other companies aren’t seeing bills as high as LCEC customers.

Vidal said it’s a matter of timing.

She estimated other utility companies will be asking for rate increases at the end of the year, likely to go into effect in January of next year.

“They’ll be going up, hopefully when we’ll be coming down.”

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