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NC and SC Regulators deal blows to Duke's Save-A-Watt plan

Regulators from both North and South Carolina refused to give Duke Energy the green light on Save-A-Watt. The North Carolina Utilities Commission is giving Duke one month to provide more detail about how much money it would earn from the program. But South Carolina's Public Service Commission flat-out rejected Save-A-Watt, saying Duke could earn unreasonably high profits. The South Carolina Commission also says Save-A-Watt would be nearly impossible for customers to understand. "Its fundamental problem is lack of transparency because its based on data the company would keep confidential," says Attorney Gudrin Thompson of the Southern Environmental Law Center. "Customers would not be able to understand what they're paying for." In rejecting Save-A-Watt, the South Carolina Commission also urged Duke to quickly develop a different plan for promoting energy conservation. Duke Energy spokeswoman Paige Sheehan says that's encouraging. But she says the company still firmly believes in the cost-recovery formula it originally proposed. "In the more traditional way of things, if you spent money on an energy efficiency program, you'd essentially get your money back as a utility and then something extra," says Sheehan. "What we're proposing is to be rewarded for the actual energy savings that we deliver to customers, and that is a fundamental shift in the way utilities have operated." Environmental groups say the traditional model works well and they need much more proof that Duke will not get a windfall from implementing Save-A-Watt. And thus far, regulators in North and South Carolina seem inclined to agree with that.