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Progress Energy May Increase Rates; Experts Offer Customers Cost-Saving Strategies

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RALEIGH, N.C. — You've been paying more at the pump. Now get ready to pay more at the meter. Progress Energy has asked the North Carolina Utilities Commission to approve a 9.3 percent rate increase.

The rate increase, if approved by the utilities commission, would take effect in October.

"The average increase would be about $7.70 for a customer that uses a thousand kilowatts per hours," said Garrick Francis, a spokesman for Progress Energy.

The rising cost of coal and natural gas is fueling the utility's request for a rate increase, and the increase would only cover the extra costs and not add to the company's profits, Francis said.

"China's growth and demand for coal overseas has caused the price of coal in the United States to rise sharply," Francis said. "Transportation costs of getting coal to plants has gone up sharply for a variety of reasons."

In order to save money if the N.C. Utilities Commission approves the hike, customers should start with their air conditioning, experts said.

Experts recommended that people keep their units' fans on the auto position, which can save people about $25 a month.

People also should try to keep their thermostats between 78 and 80 degrees. For every degree above 80, people can save between 7 and 10 percent on their bills.

Experts also suggest people use their microwave ovens more for cooking, close their drapes to block out the sun and keep the cold air inside, and pay attention to their fireplaces. A poorly closed damper can cause air to escape up the chimney and cost people more money, experts said.

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