Protesters and a full house are expected at a public hearing Wednesday in Charlotte on Duke Energy Carolinas’ latest rate hike.
Consumers say the utility’s third rate hike since 2009 gives them reason to complain. The increase would also recover some of the costs of a $2.2 billion addition to Duke’s Cliffside coal-fired power plant, a target of environmentalists.
Duke and the state’s Public Staff, which represents utility customers, this month agreed to an overall 4.5 percent rate increase that rises to 5.1 percent after two years. That’s about half the 9.7 percent hike Duke first sought.
Typical residential bills would go up from about $103 a month to $110. Duke Carolinas serves 1.9 million customers, most of them in Western North Carolina.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission still has to approve the hike but typically adopts the terms of settlement agreements.
Some customer groups aren’t on board with the settlement.
A group of commercial customers still wants the commission to resolve differences in a rate schedule that the group says unfairly discriminates against its members. The settlement defers that dispute to a separate proceeding.
AARP and the advocacy group NC WARN say the proposed settlement is premature because field hearings have not ended. AARP says North Carolina’s 1.1 million seniors will be particularly hurt by a rate hike.
WARN’s expert witness also claims Duke improperly tried to bill customers for charges including $270,000 in political contributions, a $250,000 sponsorship of the Charlotte Bobcats NBA team and other expenses.
“We believe the settlement’s fair and balanced for the ratepayers, the company and the shareholders,” Duke spokeswoman Lisa Parrish responded.
Duke, meanwhile, has asked the commission to ignore written testimony filed by Greenpeace, which says Duke should rely on energy efficiency and renewable energy instead of building new power plants. Duke says those claims have been aired before and are irrelevant.
Henderson: 704-358-5051 Twitter: @bhender
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