By Kevin Ridder
On June 22, the North Carolina Utilities Commission denied Duke Energy Carolinas’ request to enact a 13.6 percent overall rate hike and rejected Duke’s proposal to raise rates to pay for $7.8 billion in grid modernization projects over 10 years.
The commission instead approved a rate increase of 0.3 percent for residential customers effective Aug. 1, according to the Charlotte Business Journal. After four years, residential rates will increase by 1.2 percent.
Residential customers’ grid access fee was raised from $11.80 to $14 per month. While lower than Duke’s requested amount of $17.79 per month, the change stands to disproportionately impact residents who use little electricity but have to pay the increased flat fee. This could dissuade residents from adopting energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades. The commission also fined Duke $70 million for the utility’s coal ash mismanagement.
Part of the rate increase would cover approximately $545 million Duke has already spent on coal ash cleanup. In July, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein filed a formal notice of appeal with the commission against this increase on the grounds that it punishes ratepayers for Duke’s mismanagement of the toxic material.
The Sierra Club also filed a formal notice of appeal. In a statement, the nonprofit organization called the $70 million penalty “a slap on the wrist” given the commissioners’ decision to allow Duke to charge customers $545 million for coal ash cleanup. In the statement, David Rogers with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign wrote, “We strongly oppose the decision to force families, businesses and people struggling on fixed and lower incomes to foot the bill for Duke’s nearly 30 years of negligence and mismanagement.”