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Talk of the bay

As electric rates go up, utilities' ads proliferate

Published January 9, 2006

It's a lousy time to be a consumer of electricity. The cost of power is going up and shows little sign of stopping soon. This month, customers of Progress Energy Florida of St. Petersburg and Tampa Electric absorbed rate increases of about 12 percent to cover higher fuel costs.

To mute would-be critics, Tampa Electric is launching a public information campaign to explain the reasons for its latest rate hike and to give customers some tips on saving energy. The campaign includes a TV commercial and newspaper inserts, as well as a letter from Tampa Electric president Chuck Black to be included in customers' bills. Meanwhile, Progress Energy, which ran energy-efficiency ads on TV, radio and in newspapers last year, plans to resume its radio ads this month and will run print ads again in March.

Such efforts are about more than helping customers cope.

The utilities also want to minimize the number of irate e-mails and phone calls that pour into the offices of local legislators and other public officials, urging them to pressure state utility regulators to keep a tighter lid on rates. In November, state Attorney General Charlie Crist, a Republican candidate for governor, proposed that the state Legislature explore the possibility of requiring utilities to use their profits to partially offset the impact of fuel-rated rate hikes.

[Last modified January 7, 2006, 16:56:02]

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