The North Carolina Utilities Commission will continue a string of hearings this week in regard to a proposed power rate hike that could affect 1.4 million North Carolinians.
Duke Energy Carolinas has requested a rate of an overall average increase of 12.3 percent. Residential customers could see bills that are 6.7 percent to an average of about 14.3 percent higher.
Company representatives said they need a revenue increase of about $445.3 million, or 9.2 percent, to cover natural disaster recovery and carbon emissions reduction cost, repairs, and meter upgrades, among other "customer experience" issues. However, residents said they should not have to bear the additional cost for some of the problems that Duke Energy has created.
"We are focused on providing cleaner, more reliable energy to customers," Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president said in a statement. "Delivering on this commitment requires smart investments and collaborative planning as we transition to cleaner energy sources and improve the grid – all while keeping costs as low as possible and North Carolina competitive.”
Duke Energy services 44 counties in North Carolina. The company has made $7.3 billion in revenue from the state in 2018, according to the application. For residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month, bills could increase from $120.44 to $137.60, according to the company’s website. Commercial and industrial customers would see an average increase of 10.4 percent.
Part of the rate increase will be offset by a tax refund benefit of $154.6 million, representatives said, which ultimately would reduce the rate increase by 3.2 percent. About $124 million of the revenue Duke is seeking will help the company comply with environmental regulations under Gov. Roy Cooper's clean energy plan. Another $36 million will cover their recovery efforts for 1.3 million customers after Hurricanes Florence and Michael and Winter Storm Diego stuck the state in 2018.
Residents and environmentalists said North Carolina should not have to deal with the impact of the company’s shortcomings.
Energy analyst Rory Mcllmoil said Duke Energy’s rate increase is an effort to garner more profit for its shareholders.
"As it represents yet another step in Duke’s longstanding goal in shifting the increasing burden of their system cost onto residents and customers,” Mcllmoll said at a Jan. 17 hearing. “Many of them are already struggling to pay their electric bills.”
Duke Energy customer Chris Kanipe of Taylorsville called Duke’s actions “an abuse of power.”
Kanipe aired his frustrations about being unable to opt out of the company’s new meter system. He also said the company launched an energy-efficient campaign that involved sending customers energy-saving bulbs, but his bills have not decreased.
“Duke still has record profits every year,” Kanipe said. “Why are they charging us way more for way less power.”
Wednesday’s hearing is at 7 p.m. in Alamance County followed by a meeting Thursday in Mecklenburg County. An evidentiary hearing will be held March 23. If the rate increase is approved, customers will start to see changes on their bills by Aug. 1.