When we made the decision last fall to intervene in the Duke Energy Carolina’s rate case with our partners at the Center for Biological Diversity, we couldn’t have predicted that we would slip into our nation’s worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We could not have predicted a mass housing eviction and utility shutoff crisis on top of a public health disaster the likes of which we have rarely seen. These circumstances do not devalue, but rather highlight the importance of ensuring that basic services such as electricity are affordable for all.
But our findings show that in North Carolina, that is not true.
A few weeks ago, Appalachian Voices senior energy expert Rory McIlmoil testified in front of the North Carolina Public Utilities Commission, which consolidated the rate cases filed by Duke Carolinas and Duke Progress. His testimony centered on the concept of energy burden, which is the percentage that families pay off their income towards household energy costs. (See video below.)
As the commission continues to deliberate on whether to allow Duke Energy to hike electricity rates on families and businesses, the reality is sobering. As North Carolina families continue to suffer, Duke Energy is trying to force all of us to pay more so it can recover costs accrued due to Covid-19 despite increasing dividends for their shareholders as recently as July.
As our economy continues in the tumultuous time, and as Covid-19 numbers continue to spike, we need electricity rate structures that allow all customers to maintain access to affordable basic services throughout the state of emergency. As we continue towards the middle of the 21st century, we need common sense reforms, such as widespread energy efficiency programs and community solar, that reduce energy burden and provide access to clean energy to those who would benefit from it the most.