Dozens urge commission to reject Duke Energy’s proposed rate hike

Photo by Michael Hyland/CBS North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Dozens of Duke Energy customers told the North Carolina Utilities Commission Monday to reject a proposed rate increase, citing the impact on low-income families and the proposed use of funds to manage coal ash sites.

Earlier this year, Duke Energy Progress, one of the company’s operating divisions, proposed a 14.9 percent rate increase for its electricity customers — the first rate hike in five years.

For the typical household, it would amount to a $17.80 increase in the monthly bill for a total of $122.48. The rate increase could take effect in the winter.

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The rate increase could take effect in the winter.

“I’m pretty much down to the penny as far as medications, food, and paying the bills that I already have,” said customer Wanda Coker.

Dozens of people rallied in downtown Raleigh Monday evening before a public hearing.

“My wife and I, we are Duke shareholders, but we feel this shouldn’t be on the backs of those who have the least means to be able to pay for it,” said Bob Rodriguez, who lives in Raleigh.

The company’s request would generate an additional $477 million annually. In its filing with the state, the company wrote that the funding would go toward modernizing the electrical system, generating clean power through renewable sources and responding to storms.

“Changing our customer rates is something that we never take lightly. And, we understand for many of our customers, their electric bill is a significant portion of their monthly budget,” said Duke Energy spokeswoman Meredith Archie.

However, what concerned many of the people who spoke to the commission Monday is the proposal that would allow the company to recoup more than $300 million in costs related to the management and closure of coal ash pits.

“And to me, that’s just mismanagement. And, to ask us, the ratepayers to pay for that is just unheard of,” said Deborah Graham, who lives in Salisbury, near one of the coal ash sites.

Her family’s well water has been contaminated, and she relies on bottled water.

“I have bottle water sitting in my house where my furniture used to sit,” Graham said.

Archie said none of the money from the rate increase would go toward fines and penalties related to the coal ash spill in the Dan River.

Monday’s public hearing was the second of five scheduled across the state.

Additional hearings will take place Sept. 27 in Asheville, Oct. 11 in Snow Hill and Oct. 12 in Wilmington. The commission will conduct an evidentiary hearing on November 20 at 1 p.m. in Raleigh at 430 N. Salisbury Street.

The company last sought a rate increase in 2012, when it requested an average 14 percent increase for households.

The commission and the state Supreme Court approved an average 5 percent increase.

 

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