North Carolina-- Duke Energy is holding a series of public hearings to inform the public on a rate increase.
They power company has applied for a rate increase that would be the largest in 20 years in North Carolina. And, the public is getting a chance to comment on the request.
A public hearing was held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center on Duke's request to raise rates by about 20 percent for most of its residential customers.
If the North Carolina Utilities Commission allows the increase, monthly bills for typical residential customers would rise from $95 to about $113, starting in February.
According to Duke Energy officials, the company has proposed to raise its rates to cover its costs in recent investments.
Company spokesman Davis Montgomery told News 2, Duke Energy Carolina has to retire old equipment, such as power plants that have been used since the 1940's and 1950's. The company has already invested $4.8 billion in new equipment that is more energy efficient and stacks up to state and federal standards.
Those investments include new environmental equipment at Cliffside Power Plant, a new natural gas-fired power plant in Rowan County, a new hydro-electric power house in Burke County and additional investments in power lines. Company officials also said two new power plants will come online next year.
Montgomery said they are investments the company has to make even though this is a tough time to do it.
"Nobody likes the idea of having to go to our industrial, commercial or residential customers, a lot of times folks who are having to make the choice between things that they have to do and things that they can't do, and say, unfortunately, we're going to have to raise our rates. But it's not one of those things that we have a lot of control over," Montgomery said.
However, the rate increase still has to be approved by the NC Utility Commission. The commission will evaluate whether the increase is necessary. When Duke Energy asked to raise rates by more than 12 percent in 2009, the NCUC only approved a seven percent increase.
The NCUC will vote on the latest proposed increase in January. If it is approved, the increase will go into effect in February 2012.
A Duke Energy spokesperson also said the company will propose another rate hike next year.
According to the company's earnings reports, Duke Energy made $954 million in profits during the first six months of 2011. During the same time period in 2010, the company earned $228 million in profits.
Consumer advocates, small towns and some commercial customers have challenged the increase. Duke spokesman Jason Walls says that even with the increase, the utility's rates would be below the average in the Southeast.
A public hearing for the Triad is scheduled for, Thursday, October 27 in High Point. The meeting is at: High Point City Hall, 211 South Hamilton St.