On Jan. 27, the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved a 7.2 percent rate increase for North Carolina ratepayers.
The North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and a coalition of state public-interest groups filed legal briefs detailing their opposition to the rate hike.
The 7.2 percent increase is the result of an agreement between Duke Energy and the N.C. Utilities Commission’s Public Staff, which represents ratepayers. Duke Energy originally sought a 17 percent increase for residential customers. The Public Staff accepted comments on the matter and held hearings across the state before negotiating a lower figure with Duke Energy.
Duke Energy said the $309 million in annual revenue from the rate increase will pay for capital improvements in power plants and pollution controls. But opponents of the rate hike, such as Al Ripley, Director of the North Carolina Justice Center’s Housing and Consumer Project, said that raising utility bills in the current economic climate will increase the number people who have a hard time paying.
“We believe that in the past Duke has unfairly administrated their programs for collecting on rate payments,” Ripley said. “We’re asking the Commission to not only reject this increase but to make certain that Duke’s collection and electricity shutoff practices are fair.”
The North Carolina Justice Center filed a brief with two other state advocacy groups opposing the 7.2 percent rate hike.
“By investing in energy conservation, weatherization programs and increased efficiency you can do what’s better for the environment and what’s better for people’s financial situations,” Ripley said.
The brief filed by Attorney General Ray Cooper said that the 10.5 percent return on equity agreed upon in the current settlement is too high, and noted that the experts Duke used to justify the 10.5 percent rate of return did not consider the effect of current economic conditions on ratepayers.
Read more about the finalized rate increase here.