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Rising natural gas prices push up Duke Energy electric rates in NC

High-voltage power lines in northern Mecklenburg County.
David Boraks
High-voltage power lines in northern Mecklenburg County.

Higher fuel costs and new renewable energy programs are pushing up rates for Duke Energy customers in most of western and central North Carolina.

Residential rates will increase 9.5% on Sept. 1 at Duke Energy Carolinas, which includes Charlotte, Durham, Winston-Salem and Greensboro. That's $10.10 a month for a typical customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, pushing the typical bill to $116.33, according to the utility company.

But rates could fall 1.3% beginning Jan. 1 if regulators approve downward adjustments for energy efficiency programs. That would reduce the typical bill next year to $114.94.

Natural gas prices have tripled since mid-2020 because of pandemic-driven inflation and supply shortages due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Duke said it needed the rate increase to make up for an under-collection of revenue last year.

The utilities commission is currently considering a similar rate increase for Duke's other North Carolina utility, Duke Energy Progress, which serves Raleigh, the Asheville area and eastern North Carolina. If approved, rates there would rise 9.8% on Dec. 1. Regulators also are considering an energy efficiency adjustment for Duke Energy Progress that would reduce rates by 0.6% on Jan. 1.

Duke spokesman Bill Norton said North Carolina rates remain below the national average.

"We work very hard to keep fuel costs as low as possible for customers," Norton said. "Prices are rising throughout our economy, and fuel is no different. By law, there’s no markup on this fuel cost — customers pay what we pay, (and) all rate changes are overseen by the North Carolina Utilities Commission."

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.