State regulators will hold a hearing Thursday in Charlotte on the 9.3 percent rate hike Piedmont Natural Gas is seeking.
Charlotte-based Piedmont, North Carolina’s largest natural gas provider, is asking for $79.8 million in new revenue. The request has to be approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission.
Residential customers would see a 10.5 percent increase, adding $6.22 a month to typical bills starting in January. The overall hike is 9.3 percent when special contracts with large customers are included.
The increase would only partly temper the falling natural gas prices, a result of expanding shale-gas drilling that have benefited customers in recent years.
Even if Piedmont gets approval for its full request, it says residential customers would pay 18 percent less for a year’s supply of gas ($785) than they did in 2008.
State Attorney General Roy Cooper, who has fought electric-utility rate hikes, became a formal party to the Piedmont case earlier this month.
Cooper has targeted utilities’ return on equity, or shareholder profit margins. Piedmont has asked to increase its return from the current 7.19 percent to 11.3 percent.
Piedmont says it has spent $1.2 billion to meet federal pipeline safety standards and upgrade its distribution system since its last rate hike in 2008. It also wants customers to pay $3.6 million for a liquefied natural gas project in Robeson County that Piedmont canceled amid the recession.
Piedmont serves 693,000 customers in 66 North Carolina counties, including 230,000 customers in Mecklenburg.
After public hearings in Charlotte, High Point and Wilmington, the Utilities Commission will begin hearing testimony from expert witnesses in Raleigh on Oct. 14.
Henderson: 704-358-5051 Twitter: @bhender
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