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Duke Energy adds new storm recovery charge to customer bills

Cole del Charco / WFAE
A tree fell on powerlines on Tom Hunter Road in Charlotte during Hurricane Michael in 2018.

Duke Energy customers in North Carolina will see a new charge on their bills starting this month to pay for cleanups and repairs after major storms in 2018 and 2019.

A typical customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month will see a new monthly charge of $2.44 in the Duke Energy Progress territory in eastern North Carolina and Asheville, and 49 cents in Duke Energy Carolinas' western North Carolina territory.

Charging for the work is not actually new, but the way Duke is paying for it is. Under a change approved two years ago by lawmakers and regulators, Duke can now sell bonds to investors to obtain reimbursement for unusual expenses like storm cleanups. That's instead of waiting for regulators to approve future rate increases.

It's the first time Duke has taken advantage of the rules change.

The move also saves customers money, Duke Energy said Thursday. To pay for the cleanups for hurricanes Florence, Michael, and Dorian and winter storm Diego, the company issued $1 billion in bonds on Nov. 24. Including interest over 20 years, the total cost to customers is $1.3 billion. That's $300 million less than it would have been through past cost-recovery methods, which would have added more interest and other costs.

Duke Energy said the various storms caused extensive damage that required rebuilding parts of the electrical system. For example, Hurricane Florence in September 2018 knocked out 142 substations, 53 transmission lines and 2,200 transformers, Duke said. About 220 miles of wire and 5.700 poles also were down across the Carolinas.

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