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Cooper plans to fight Progress rate increase

Posted May 31, 2013

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— Attorney General Roy Cooper said Friday that he plans an appeal to block a 7.5 percent rate increase that the North Carolina Utilities Commission awarded Thursday to Duke Energy for former Progress Energy customers.

The increase would be phased in over two years, with the bulk starting Saturday,

Duke officials said the monthly bill for an average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity would rise from $104 to more than $111.

Retail customers would see a 5.5 percent increase in rates over two years, while the increase for industrial customers would range from 3.6 percent to 5.1 percent.

The recently renamed Duke Energy Progress will contribute an additional $20 million to help low-income customers in North Carolina pay their energy bills as part of the deal negotiated between the utility and the Public Staff, the state agency that represents consumers in rate cases.

"We believe that the settlement reflects a balance between the needs of our company and those of our customers,” Paul Newton, Duke state president for North Carolina, said in a statement.

The rate increase will provide Duke with an extra $178.7 million in revenue, officials said, compared with the $359 million the utility had sought.

"We understand there is never a good time to increase rates," Newton said. "However, we believe this approved settlement will allow us to keep the rate increase to customers as low as we reasonably can and still recover the investments we’ve made to modernize our system and to ensure safe, reliable and increasingly clean electricity for the future.”

Cooper said, however, that the Utilities Commission ignored a recent state Supreme Court ruling that struck down a 7.2 percent increase the commission awarded to Duke last year. The court ordered the agency to evaluate the impact on consumers to determine an appropriate rate.

That ruling should serve as a guide in determining all electric rate increases, he said, adding that the latest increase is too steep for Duke Energy Progress customers.

“This order puts utility profits ahead of people," he said in a statement. "It talks about how much consumers are hurting but sticks them with higher rates anyway. A true analysis of the effect on struggling consumers, as required by the North Carolina Supreme Court, should result in lower rates. So, we plan to appeal this ruling.”

Duke said in a statement Friday that the utility "has made sizable investments to ensure that customers receive electricity that’s affordable and reliable and increasingly clean in terms of how it’s generated." The rate increase reflects the company's $2.3 billion investment for plant modernization, they said.

"Modernizing Duke Energy Progress’ power plant fleet is an important investment in North Carolina’s environment and economic future," the company said.

The Utilities Commission is allowing Duke to maintain its higher rate while it reviews the overturned 2012 increase. Duke also is seeking a second increase before the commission.

88 Comments

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  • Duke _Nukem Jun 3, 9:15 a.m.

    welcome to your republicon corporate overlords. They will stop at nothing to ensure profit takes precedence over people. And again, McCrory sits silent in the mansion. Ignoring the voices of all Tar Heels.-floydthebarber

    Ummmm this is a Lib/democrat set up buddy. Dems have controlled NC for 80 years. And this is Socialism style of energy with one company being regulated by government. Repubs would want free trade and competition. Nice try though. ;)

  • Duke _Nukem Jun 3, 9:11 a.m.

    This is why my wife and I switched to a gas oven. Why we hang our clothes out on a clothes line, why we don't have our ac temp cold and heat hot, lights are off during day and use window light. I may not be a drop in the bucket for them, but I'm giving them as little of my money as possible. This is what happens when you have a legalized monopoly that's regulated by the government.

  • heelzfan4 May 31, 7:57 p.m.

    Why can't folks, for one second, STOP using the Democrat vs. Republican game.....because that's what it is. No one party is that much better than the other. The REAL story here is that DUKE ENERGY LIED! Plain and simple. They said, repeatedly, that the merger would create bottom line savings to consumers' monthly bills. Yet they keep asking for increases. I have yet to see a reduce in the rate. I support business - but this MONOPOLY is a bunch of crooks! Just saying...

  • Mom2two May 31, 7:03 p.m.

    So which time were they lying: that a merger would save money and prevent rate increases, or now, when they say they need more money? Which one is a lie? Methinks it is the latter.

  • nc creature May 31, 6:37 p.m.

    Go Roy!

  • Gnathostomata May 31, 6:09 p.m.

    Roy Cooper: Live long and Prosper!

  • veyor May 31, 4:33 p.m.

    Duke and Progress employees had nice raises all the way through the recession.

  • SaveEnergyMan May 31, 4:06 p.m.

    A lot of this is Duke's investment in combined cycle gas turbines that are letting them retire old coal fired plants, and investment in solar power. Coal is going to be a liability in the future if Obama and the EPA have their way (carbon tax, emissions), so it is indeed Obama's fault at least in part.

    The solar part has the General Assembly to blame. Senate Bill 3 requires a certain % of power to be made with renewables/efficiency. Solar is expensive and not terribly economical.

    Here is the question. What does Duke pay large scale solar installers per kWh for their energy? They and the Utilities Comm REFUSE to disclose it (I've asked). They pay more because Duke has to buy it to meet the law. This drives your rates up. Solar requires unknown subsidies per kWh and a 65-70% tax rebate (taxpayer money) even to be marginally economical. This is why your rates are going up. I wish WRAL would follow up on this and get the real story.

  • FreeMarket May 31, 3:53 p.m.

    No rate increase since 1987 - you are good at believing the utility propaganda. Fact is they are allowed to directly pass increasing fuel costs to the customer and have done so multiple times. In addition as usage increases the plants you pay for and provide a 10.5% return on produce more product without any additional staff. Ah, then when they run them more they get to invest more money in these facilities and make more money! Oh they had dirty coal plants and in the early 2000's they spent $1.5B on clean air and were allowed to increase rates to pay for it. Sorry to say Roy is right - Duke rates have continued to go up and they continue to use semantics to cover it up. Go Roy - next step needs to be Electric Utility deregulation which would undo the stranglehold Duke has developed in NC. Duke fear mongering over leaving the state if they don't get what they want is the height of hypocrisy.

  • Road-wearier May 31, 3:42 p.m.

    "funny how all the libs took off and hid when it was pointed out that 6 of the 7 on the board were appointed by a Democrat Governor."

    You mean the GOP hasn't passed a bill to throw 'em all out yet? That way Duke would get a 15% increase for residential and a 20% decrease for business...

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