You may have to pay more to keep the lights on. Here’s why.

Millions of Floridians’ power bills could rise dramatically as FPL and other utilities look to customers to pay more for improvements that could make the state’s electrical grid more resilient from hurricanes.

Newly proposed legislation, which is advancing in the Florida Senate, would establish a 10-year plan to further strengthen the state’s electrical grid against damage from storms, in part by burying power lines and stepping up vegetation trimming. It would give utilities a new mechanism to recover expenses for grid upgrades, separating those costs from base rates.

The proposal’s opponents fear electric bills could soar. They call the change unnecessary, because utilities already may upgrade their grids and recover costs from customers’ payments. Zayne Smith, associate state director at AARP Florida, which represents senior citizens, recently told a Senate committee the proposal essentially gives utilities “a blank check to raise the rates.”

But proponents say the move is needed to improve how customers recover power after hurricanes. Juno Beach-based Florida Power & Light Co., the state’s largest electric utility, is among those backing the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota.

“I can tell you we’re supportive of the bill, as it advocates for more undergrounding [of power lines] — which is very important for our state given Florida’s susceptibility to hurricanes,” FPL spokesman Christopher McGrath said. The utility’s work in recent years to strengthen the grid has “reduced overall power restoration times and costs for our customers,” FPL said.

Reviewing utilities’ costs

J.R. Kelly, Florida’s Public Counsel, said while he doesn’t weigh in on legislation, he is concerned about the potential cost for customers. He said utilities already recover costs spent on upgrading the electrical grid by filing with the Florida Public Service Commission, which determines whether the costs should be included in base rates.