Duke Energy wants to raise rates again on its North Carolina customers – this time by nearly 12 percent for residential users. WFAE's Julie Rose reports on the company's latest request to state regulators.
We knew this rate hike request was coming, but we didn't know how large it would be. Last time around, Duke asked to raise residential rates by 17 percent but settled for just over 7 percent when it finally took effect a year ago. Now Duke Energy is proposing another 11.8 percent increase for residential customers.
"This rate hike from Duke Energy is about what we've expected," says Greenpeace spokeswoman Monica Embrey. Duke Energy critics have been mobilizing in anticipation of the request.
"You know it's the latest example of how Duke would rather be profiting from polluting industries such as coal and nukes instead of switching to clean, renewable energy sources that would actually be cheaper for North Carolina ratepayers," says Embrey.
Duke Energy challenges the assertion that wind and solar would be cheaper for its rate payers. But it is true that this latest rate increase would help the company recover billions of dollars spent building its new Cliffside coal-fired plant and a new natural gas-fired plant that Duke Energy spokeswoman Lisa Parrish says will replace less-efficient coal units.
As for Cliffside, "that new plant does more for less," says Parrish. "Less coal is burned per megawatt hour than for most coal units in the nation."
And Parrish says Cliffside is cleaner than older coal plants because of technology that "scrubs" out some of the harmful emissions.
But is now a good time to make a substantial rate hike request? The same economic conditions that led to public outcry over that last rate hike are still in effect statewide. And North Carolina's Attorney General is still challenging the last one in court, because he says it benefits Duke shareholders excessively.
Duke acknowledges in its request to state regulators that the rate increase "will pose some hardship to its customers." But, the company adds needs to give its investors a reasonable return, while offering safe, reliable electricity to its customers.