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The federal tax cuts might affect your Duke Energy bill

Duke Energy’s headquarters tower in Charlotte. Unlike some other major companies, the utility's employees won't be seeing any bonuses or raises in response to new federal tax changes, a Duke executive said Thursday.
Duke Energy’s headquarters tower in Charlotte. Unlike some other major companies, the utility's employees won't be seeing any bonuses or raises in response to new federal tax changes, a Duke executive said Thursday. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

A state regulator says it’s looking at how Duke Energy and other public utilities will benefit from new federal tax cuts – an analysis expected to result in the companies passing their savings on to ratepayers.

In an order this month, the North Carolina Utilities Commission said last month’s passage of the cuts will have “an immediate and favorable” effect on utilities’ costs to provide their services. The utilities have been asked to give the commission estimates of their new costs under the tax changes, which slash what companies pay on their profits from 35 percent to 21 percent.

Officials with the commission’s public staff, which represents consumers, told the Observer that it’s too soon to say by how much utility rates might be lowered. But any savings should be given back to customers, the officials said.

Charlotte-based Duke and its Piedmont Natural Gas operations are among companies affected by the order, which requires the organizations to file initial comments by Feb. 1.

In a statement, Duke spokeswoman Catherine Butler said Duke’s customers will see savings and other benefits resulting from the new tax law.

“We are currently working with regulators in our states to settle on the best path forward,” she said. “We look forward to delivering tax reform benefits as part of the smarter energy future our customers deserve.”

It’s also unclear how the order will factor into Duke’s pending requests to raise rates across North Carolina, including in the Charlotte area. Duke filed those requests last year, and the commission continues to evaluate them. A public hearing on the request that affects the Charlotte area is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 30 in Mecklenburg County Courthouse, 832 E. Fourth St.

This isn’t the first time the commission has ordered utilities to pass tax savings on to customers.

A similar requirement went into effect after North Carolina lawmakers in 2013 passed a tax overhaul that reduced individual income tax and state corporate tax rates.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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