Business Energy Users Want A Break On Bills Amid Pandemic
A group of commercial energy users wants Duke Energy to waive fixed monthly fees during the coronavirus pandemic. Duke says it's willing to work with customers individually, but the fees are needed to keep its power network running.
The Carolina Utility Customers Association, or CUCA, filed a petition with state regulators last month. The organization represents large manufacturers and other commercial customers. Many of these companies, as well as small businesses, schools and nonprofits, are shut down and not using much, if any, electricity.
"Duke Energy has basically chosen to operate its business as usual," said Kevin Martin, CUCA's executive director. "Yes, they're not cutting off customers and they're not billing for late payments because they recognize it's the right thing to do, but I feel they're ignoring the bigger picture — the unprecedented situation around them and how it's impacted its customers."
Martin points to big automobile insurers, which have given back millions of dollars in auto insurance premiums because customers are driving less.
Martin says monthly minimum electricity fees can run to thousands of dollars for a large customer and hundreds of dollars for a small business.
Duke Energy opposes the idea of a waiving fixed monthly fees, saying a three-month waiver would cost it nearly $28 million. Here's Duke's Meredith Archie: ARCHIE -
"Some have characterized this as kind of a windfall profit for us, and that simply isn't true" said Duke Energy spokesperson Meredith Archie. "Now, more than ever, we have to provide reliable service to our customers. This charge enables us to keep the system ready."
Duke Energy is waiving late payment fees for all customers during the pandemic.
The company is fighting the CUCA petition at the North Carolina Utilities Commission. Regulators have not scheduled a hearing on the request.
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