Duke Energy has reached a deal with environmental and business groups that could limit how long it can charge customers for improvements to the energy grid in western North Carolina. The partial settlement comes as Duke awaits a decision from regulators on a proposed 10 percent rate increase.
The deal affects Duke's 10-year, $7.8 billion grid modernization program announced last year. In a filing with the North Carolina Utilities Commission, Duke says it has agreed to limit customer charges for the work to a three-year pilot program. Any future charges would require further regulatory approval.
Duke also agreed to spend $25 million on vehicle charging stations by 2021; to improve efficiency, security and reliability; and to install more battery storage in rural areas.
“The grid infrastructure investments proposed in this settlement will improve reliability and protect against cyber and physical threats and help to expand clean energy technologies like private solar and battery storage and electric vehicles,” Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said Friday.
It still must be approved by the utilities commission as part of its review of the proposed rate hike. A decision is expected later this month.
Duke reached the agreement with the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, as well as a group of retail and department stores.
Environmental groups said the deal would speed the adoption of cleaner energy options in the state and cut how much Duke spends.
“This settlement reduces DEC’s investment from a staggering $7.8 billion over 10 years to $2.5 billion over 4 years, pushing Duke to invest in true grid modernization and taking substantive steps to advance North Carolina’s energy economy along a cleaner, more affordable and transparent path,” said Ivan Urlaub, the executive director of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, in a press release.
See Duke's filing about the agreement on the North Carolina Utilities Commission website, NCUC.net