Regulators Begin Hearings On Duke Rate Increase
Regulatory hearings begin Monday afternoon at the North Carolina Utilities Commission in Raleigh for Duke Energy's latest request for a rate increase.
The testimony and cross-examination come after months of public hearings and paper filings.
Duke Energy will argue that it desperately needs a 5 percent average rate increase from its customers in the Carolinas to pay for years of upgrades to power plants.
That's less than half the rate hike Duke originally requested, but the company has since settled on a lower figure with the state's consumer advocacy agency – called the Public Staff. Turns out Duke had included millions of dollars worth of expenses in that original request that it's not allowed to force on customers: things like merger expenses, corporate plane costs and lobbying unrelated to customers in the Carolinas.
NC Utilities Commission's Public Staff says Duke included those items in "error." Environmental watchdog group NC WARN will argue during this week's hearing that it was either incompetence on Duke's part - or outright fraud.
Duke Energy has been in a yearly pattern of raising rates in the Carolinas. But Lynn Good – Duke's CEO as of a week ago – recently said, that is about to stop.
"We have no expectation of annual rate increases," said Good in a phone interview with WFAE on June 18, 2013. "Our work with these rate increases was dictated by the investment we've made over five years to modernize our system, and this is the last round of rate cases that will be necessary in order for us to put these investments into rates."