Overview and Key Facts
The work of the Florida Public Service Commission is a balancing act. The Commission must balance the needs of a utility and its shareholders with the needs of consumers. Traditionally, the Commission achieved this goal by establishing exclusive utility service territories, regulating the rates and profits of a utility, and placing an affirmative obligation on the utility to provide service to all who requested it. For electric and water customers in the state, many of the Commission's traditional methods for achieving the balance continue today. Legislative action during the 1995 session to open up the local telephone market to increased competition, however, calls for the Commission to facilitate entry of new firms into the local telephone market, while at the same time ensuring that neither the new entrant nor the incumbent local exchange company is unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged. Section 364.01(4), F.S., calls for the Commission to exercise its jurisdiction to encourage and promote competition. The Commission's role in the increasingly competitive telephone industry remains one of balance.
What does the PSC Do?
The Florida Public Service Commission is committed to making sure that Florida's consumers receive some of their most essential services -- electric, natural gas, telephone, water, and wastewater -- in a safe, affordable, and reliable manner. In doing so, the PSC exercises regulatory authority over utilities in one or more of three key areas: rate base/economic regulation; competitive market oversight; and monitoring of safety, reliability, and service issues.
Who Does the PSC Regulate?
During 2014, the PSC regulated five investor-owned electric companies, seven investor-owned natural gas utilities, and 149 investor-owned water and/or wastewater utilities.
The number of certificated or registered telecommunications companies in the state of Florida as of December 2014, were as follows:
While the PSC does not fully regulate publicly owned municipal or cooperative electric utilities, the Commission does have jurisdiction, with regard to rate structure, territorial boundaries, bulk power supply operations and planning, over 34 municipally owned electric systems and 18 rural electric cooperatives. The PSC has jurisdiction, with regard to territorial boundaries and safety, over 28 municipally owned natural gas utilities and also exercises safety authority over all electric and natural gas systems operating in the state. For information on services the PSC does and does not regulate, see our brochure entitled When to Call the PSC.
How Are Your Rates Set?
Whenever a jurisdictional rate-base-regulated gas, electric, water or wastewater company wants to change its rates, it must receive permission from the PSC. The PSC then investigates its request and sets new rate levels if the request is valid. The investigation is extensive, with many PSC staff members helping the Commission assess the company's request. The Public Service Commission has the responsibility to set rates that are fair, just and reasonable. It is also required to set rates to allow utility investors an opportunity to earn a reasonable return on their investment.
How Are Commissioners Selected?
The Public Service Commission consists of five members selected for their knowledge and experience in one or more fields substantially related to the duties and functions of the Commission. These fields include economics, accounting, engineering, finance, natural resource conservation, energy, public affairs, and law.
The Chairman is the chief administrative officer of the Commission, presiding at all hearings and conferences when present, setting Commission hearings, and performing those duties prescribed by law. In the Chairman's absence, the senior member of the Commission panel presides. The Chairman is elected by the Commission pursuant to law.
The Governor appoints a Commissioner from nominees selected by the Public Service Commission Nominating Council. Commissioners must also be confirmed by the Florida Senate. Prior to 1979, three Commissioners were elected in a statewide election. The 1978 Legislature changed the Commission to a five-member appointed board.
As part of its investigation in rate cases, the PSC often holds a service hearing within the utility's service area, so that the Commissioners can hear from the public. Customers may comment or ask questions on the proposed rates or make any other statements relating to the utility's operations. The Public Counsel, who is appointed by the Florida Legislature, represents customers at rate case hearings.
In some water and wastewater rate cases, a utility may specifically request that the Commission process its petition for rate relief using the agency’s proposed action procedure, as prescribed by Commission rule (25-22.0407 (8), Florida Administrative Code). In these rate cases, designed to avoid costs for utility customers, a customer meeting is conducted by Commission staff to receive valuable customer input about service quality and other issues.
Following customer hearings, technical hearings similar to courtroom proceedings are held in which evidence is presented by expert witnesses in support of each viewpoint represented. Witnesses are cross-examined by the utility, intervenors, staff, and the Public Counsel's Office. This information is utilized by the Commission when it evaluates company requests.
The utility is required to justify all of its expenses for the operations of the utility. An expense that the Commission determines to be improper, imprudent, or unnecessary is disallowed and is excluded from the amount the utility is allowed to collect from customers.
The Commission also looks at the amount utility stockholders have invested in utility plant and other facilities and allows a reasonable return on the investment necessary to provide good service.
After all evidence is presented, the Commission reviews the record that has been developed and renders a decision. The decision it makes will determine the level of rates the company will be permitted to collect.
Rates are calculated to generate revenues that allow a company the opportunity to earn the amount needed for the approved expenses plus the authorized return. However, there is no guarantee that the authorized return will be achieved.
Once the final order is issued, the Commission's decision can be appealed to the state's appellate court system.
How to Contact the PSC
The Public Service Commission has staff who will assist you if you are unable to resolve a problem with your utility company. The PSC's Office of Consumer Assistance & Outreach protects consumers from unjust utility practices and helps solve problems and answer questions. If you have a problem with your service, billing, or rates, first attempt to resolve it with the company. Then give that company adequate time to correct the problem. If you still need help, call the Office of Consumer Assistance & Outreach in Tallahassee. The consumer assistance number is 1-800-342-3552, or fax at 1-800-511-0809. Consumer assistance can also be obtained via E- mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or write to the: Florida Public Service Commission, Office of Consumer Assistance & Outreach, 2540 Shumard Oak Boulevard, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0850. An analyst will be glad to help you.
Visit our Contact Information page for directions to the PSC and more.