Raleigh, N.C. — Progress Energy Carolinas and the North Carolina Public Staff have reached an agreement on the utility's request to increase electric rates, officials said Friday.
Under the terms of the deal, customers would see a 5.7 percent increase in their rates spread over a two-year period. Progress had been seeking an 11 percent increase.
The Public Staff is the agency within the North Carolina Utilities Commission that represents consumers in rate cases. The commission still must approve any increases.
The deal still doesn't resolve how the overall rate increase will be divided among residential, commercial and industrial customers, officials said.
The Utilities Commission has scheduled a March 18 hearing to consider the settlement and all unresolved issues in the rate case. Progress wants its new rates to go into effect June 1.
About $151.4 million of the proposed increase would come in the first year, followed by $183 million the second year. The latter increase includes $31.4 million toward the construction of a natural gas-powered generation plant in Wilmington, officials said.
Progress Energy has agreed to contribute an additional $20 million to help low-income customers in North Carolina pay their energy bills and to lower its return-on-equity demands from 11.25 to 10.2 percent.
"This agreement with the Public Staff is an important and positive step in this proceeding," Paul Newton, the North Carolina president for Progress parent Duke Energy, said in a statement.
"The proposed settlement balances the needs of our customers and our investors," Newton said. "We understand there is never a good time to increase rates. However, we believe this settlement allows 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."
Duke Energy Carolinas has a separate rate increase pending before the Utilities Commission. Public hearings on that case are set for May and June.