Duke Energy and the state's utility consumer advocates have reached a partial agreement on a rate increase for eastern North Carolina that's lower than what the company originally sought. But Duke and the advocates are still haggling over how much consumers should pay for coal ash cleanups at Duke's North Carolina power plants and hurricane recovery costs.
Given the ongoing negotiations, the N.C. Utilities Commission postponed Monday's planned hearing on the rate increase for a week, to next Monday, Nov. 27. The commission would still have to approve any agreement.
The rate increase would affect more than a million customers in the Duke Energy Progress territory, which covers eastern North Carolina, and Asheville.
The two sides said Duke will accept a 13.2 percent increase in overall rates, down from the 14.9 percent it initially requested, according to an updated rate request calculation filed last Friday, Nov. 17. For residential customers, Duke now says it wants an increase of 15.2 percent, down from its original request of 16.7 percent.
The company also is now willing to accept a nearly 10 percent potential profit margin, down from almost 11 percent, according to a utilities commission filing Monday.
Still at issue is whether Duke Energy Progress will be allowed to charge consumers $200 million dollars a year to clean up toxic coal ash in ponds and landfills around its North Carolina plants.
A longtime Duke Energy watchdog, N.C. WARN, issued a statement opposing the possible deal. The group called it a "backroom deal ... that undermines other parties' cases and shields Duke from full and open scrutiny."
The company wants the rate increase to take effect Jan. 1, 2018.
Duke's other main utility, Duke Energy Carolinas, is also seeking a rate increase of 17 percent in the western part of the state, including Charlotte. The commission is considering that request separately.