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PSNC Rate Change About Economic Fairness, Utilities Director Says

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A decision by the North Carolina Utilities Commission to approve a controversial rate change by PSNC Energy was about economic fairness, one of the members of state utilities commission said Thursday.

The new rate structure sets a minimum usage amount for gas customers in the summer months. If they do not use the minimum, they must pay a higher rate in the winter.

"We thought about this pretty hard," Commissioner Sam Ervin IV said, defending the change. "I understand it may be painful. The rates fairly reflect that seasonal customers are more expensive to serve."

One day after WRAL first reported on the structure, the commission received dozens of calls and e-mails from customers complaining about how they feel the change is unfair.

"My first reaction was, 'This is so stupid. It can't be happening,'" said PSNC customer Carol Charping, of Durham. "I feel like we've been kicked in the teeth here."

Like 25 percent of PSNC customers, Charping did not use the minimum of 24 therms, or energy units, during the summer months that PSNC Energy requires under its "Value" rate. As a result, her bill under the "Standard 110" rate for the winter will increase by about $12 more.

Charping thinks the system unfairly urges people to waste energy and punishes part-time gas users.

"I understand the argument about peak load, and I understand it's more important," she said. "But I don't think it's my responsibility, as a private citizen, to have to solve PSNC's corporate issues."

PSNC is not the only utility company to use the rate structure. Piedmont Natural Gas has a similar billing system.


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