Hearing begins on Duke Energy rate hike for western and central NC
State regulators will hear from experts at a hearing beginning Monday in Raleigh as they consider Duke Energy's request for a big rate hike in its central and western North Carolina territory.
In January, Duke asked regulators for a 15.7% increase over three years for customers served by its Duke Energy Carolinas division, which stretches from Durham to the Triad to Charlotte to the mountains. The company said the additional $833 million in revenue that would bring in would pay to upgrade the electric grid, improve reliability and prepare for more renewable energy and electric vehicles.
It's likely the North Carolina Utilities Commission will reduce Duke's request. That's what happened two weeks ago when regulators approved a smaller 11.3% increase over three years for Duke Energy Progress customers in eastern North Carolina and the Asheville area.
And last week, Duke Energy Carolinas announced an agreement with the Utilities Commission public staff, the state's utility consumer advocate, to reduce the $833 million increase by $158 million, or almost one-fifth. That still needs regulatory approval and it's not clear yet how the proposal would affect monthly bills.
The Utilities Commission has already heard from Duke Energy customers at public hearings. Residents, businesses and environmental groups have submitted thousands of pages of testimony and comments about the proposed increase, much of it negative.
The hearing beginning Monday will be much like one held earlier this summer for Duke Energy Progress. It could last a week or longer and is expected to include detailed testimony from experts for Duke as well as business, environmental and customer groups.
Meanwhile, even before the commission considers this increase, Duke Energy Carolinas rates are set to rise 12.6% on Sept. 1, mainly because of higher fuel costs.
Last week, the commission approved an 11.3% fuel-related rate hike for Duke Energy Carolinas. The money repays Duke for higher natural gas and coal costs last year.
And separately, the commission last week granted Duke Energy Carolinas a temporary increase of 0.9% while it waits for regulators to hold hearings on the larger, three-year increase.
Altogether, those two increases will raise the monthly bill of a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatts of electricity by $14.71 a month, to $131.70.
If regulators OK the three-year rate increase, that would come on top of the fuel-related increase.