Cooper plans to fight Progress rate increase
Posted May 31, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — 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.