In October, the North Carolina Senate and House of Representatives voted unanimously to pass a revised version of a ratemaking bill without a controversial provision supported by Duke Energy that would have allowed the monopoly utility to enact multi-year rate hikes. Instead, S.B.559, which the governor signed on Nov. 6, only addresses how to finance storm recovery costs.
Public opposition to previous versions of the bill had been strong since the bill’s introduction in April, resulting in the bill stalling without a vote for several weeks in the state House. Energy Justice North Carolina, a coalition of environmental and consumer protection groups including Appalachian Voices, the publisher of this newspaper, was among those who opposed Duke’s multi-year rate hike provision in the bill.
Opponents of the measure stated that it would have resulted in billions of dollars in excess profits for Duke and increased costs for ratepayers over the next 10 years. Earlier in 2019, Energy Justice N.C. released two reports outlining how Duke targeted its campaign contributions in the last election cycle to key legislators in charge of reviewing S.B.559.
The legislature’s vote came about a month after Duke Energy Carolinas requested a 10.3 percent rate hike on residential customers. On Oct. 17, Appalachian Voices and the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity filed a legal challenge against the monopoly utility’s request on the grounds that Duke did not include plans to advance renewable energy.
The two groups stated that the rate hike combined with the state’s renewable energy policies would result in fewer options for residential solar power and increase the percentage of income that low-income households spend on energy costs.
Public hearings for the rate increase begin on Jan. 15. Click here for a full schedule. — By Kevin Ridder