Raleigh, N.C. — Attorney General Roy Cooper is urging state regulators to reject Duke Energy's proposed rate increase, his latest salvo in an ongoing war against the Charlotte-based utility over higher electric rates.
The state Utilities Commission is considering Duke's request to raise rates by 4.5 percent overall, increasing to 5 percent after two years. If approved, the increase would be the third since 2009 for customers of Duke Energy Carolinas, which serves the western part of the Triangle and much of western North Carolina.
“People are already struggling to pay their bills and utilities want to raise rates yet again,” Cooper in a statement. “We’ll continue to fight these increases that fail to adequately take consumers into account.”
He cited an analysis by Moody’s that shows that North Carolinians pay a higher percentage of their household disposable income for electricity than residents of all but six other states. He also questioned whether Duke shareholders should be entitled to a 10.2 return on investment on the backs of consumers, many of whom are still struggling in an uneven economy.
A state Supreme Court ruling in April struck down a 7.2 percent increase the Utilities Commission awarded to Duke last year after Cooper objected to it. The court ordered the agency to evaluate the impact on consumers to determine an appropriate rate.
Cooper has also appealed a 7.5 percent rate increase awarded to Duke in May for former Progress Energy customers, arguing that the Utilities Commission ignored the Supreme Court's directive to weigh the consumer impact of any increase.
“The Supreme Court agreed that looking at profits without considering the impact on customers simply isn’t fair,” he said in the statement. “This ruling should lead to lower utility company profits and consumer rates.”