State News

Angry customers protest Duke Energy price hike

Posted November 28, 2011

— Customers of Duke Energy let regulators feel their pain Monday afternoon during a public hearing to determine if the state would approve the proposed 7.2 percent price hike sought by the utility.

The higher rates would take effect on 1.8 million customers statewide in February if the North Carolina Utilities Commission agrees they are needed. The average household electric bill would go up by about $7 per month.

Among those who spoke were the "Raging Grannies" who delivered their opposition to the hike in song. 

"Oh, we're a gaggle of grannies, urging you off of your fannies," they serenaded members of the utilities commission. "We demand that you all listen to the citizens today. No rate hike. No way. No way."

Ruth Zalph of Chapel Hill represented the needs of two generations. "It would be hard on me, and it would be hard on my granddaughter who rents an apartment and goes to school," she said.

The rate increase is less than half of Duke Energy's original request of 15 percent on average across residential, industrial and commercial customers. The proposal cleared a major hurdle last week with the endorsement of the commission's Public Staff, which represents consumers.

Raging Grannies Angry customers protest Duke Energy price hike

The company is looking to raise rates by 17 percent on residential customers in South Carolina. 

A company spokeswoman said the 7 percent requested reflects a compromise

"We believe that the settlement we reached really strikes a balance between the challenging economic times and the need for the company to recover the capital investments we make in the electric system," Betsy Conway said.

The company says it needs the money to pay for $4.8 billion in greater employee benefit costs, power plant modernization, environmental compliance, and other construction projects approved by state regulators since 2009.

Gene Nichol, a professor at the University of North Carolina law school's Center on Poverty , Work and Opportunity, said Duke's changing numbers hurt the company's case.

"They have an obligation to prove that these rate increases are absolutely necessary in the public interest," he said. "I don't think they're able to prove anything if they keep gyrating all across the stage."

Duke Energy's last rate increase in 2009 raised power costs by 7 percent, but the increase was spread over two years.

State Attorney General Roy Cooper stood with consumers against the proposed rate hike. 

"A 7.2 percent rate increase is too much for working families and businesses during these tough economic times," Cooper said in a statement.

118 Comments

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  • mikeyj Nov 29, 4:47 p.m.

    On the light side of all this: MD-2020 sales expected to soar!:-}

  • Zoey0815 Nov 29, 3:55 p.m.

    Worland - have you every been to Pittsburgh? Have you seen the result of coal power? It's not good. Have you been to Tennessee since the 1.1 million gallon of coal ash was released into the local communities? Yeah, clean power is a really bad idea. God forbid we try and take care of the planet we are handing to our children.

  • westernwake1 Nov 29, 3:25 p.m.

    "westernwake1: When two competing utility or cable companies share the same area what happens is they both have to lay down the infrastructure throughout the entire area to provide their services. This means that there is twice as much maintenance, start up costs, etc spread out over the same number of customers. Sure they might not turn as much profit, and they probably do have better service but that doesn't mean lower rates" - All the People

    There have been numerous articles over the past 10 years pointing to examples where competing utilities in the electric, cable, and gas space lead to both improved customer service and lower rates. This is due to competition.

    If I am the only restaurant in town then I can charge any fee I want for my food and have lousy customer service. The minute a second restaurant opens then I need to compete in terms of pricing and customer service. The same reality applies to the utility market.

  • OpinionatedGuy Nov 29, 3:23 p.m.

    Alot of power employees sticking up for the power company... Interesting... But, we are the 99 percent and we will not lie down, we will speak out against price increases to the wealthy corporate greed!

  • cantstandya Nov 29, 3:08 p.m.

    shuga,' I feel your pain and participate in their gain,they got us and it only is going to get worse.

  • Karmageddon Nov 29, 3:04 p.m.

    "reason for hike:::::: recent aquisition of Progress Energy. with all that new customer base Duke will pay for and enjoy then they come with rate increase:::::: absolutely ludicrous"

    Your statement is ludicrous.....

  • peterpepper Nov 29, 2:50 p.m.

    You should be with Randolph electric, they raised their cost of purchase power and fuel adj. almost 2x since Jan. of this year, talk about a rip off !

  • storchheim Nov 29, 2:28 p.m.

    There was never any consumer-level competition because you don't have a choice about which company supplies your power, phone, or cable.

    Get a gas-powered generator, a cell phone of your choice, and drop the cable. Not much else you can do.

  • storchheim Nov 29, 2:17 p.m.

    veyor, instead of being bitter, why don't you get a job at PE? Thanks for the info about their employees getting raises. I'm going to see what jobs they have open. The last time I got a raise, as opposed to changing jobs for a higher-paying one, was in 2007.

  • All the People Nov 29, 2:03 p.m.

    westernwake1: When two competing utility or cable companies share the same area what happens is they both have to lay down the infrastructure throughout the entire area to provide their services. This means that there is twice as much maintenance, start up costs, etc spread out over the same number of customers. Sure they might not turn as much profit, and they probably do have better service but that doesn't mean lower rates.

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