Utilities Commission Holds Hearing About Proposed Duke Energy Rate Increase

11:36 PM, Oct 27, 2011   |    comments
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High Point, NC -- The North Carolina Utilities Commission heard from dozens of people Thursday night who spoke out against Duke Energy's proposed rate increase that would add about $18 to your average monthly bill.

The public hearing was held at High Point City Hall.

The Utilities Commission will decide whether or not to approve Duke Energy's request and has been holding a series of hearings on the issue.

Duke Energy said the rate increase would cover the cost of infrastructure upgrades and employee benefits. They have said there's never a good time to ask for an increase like this.

Speakers from all walks of life and said this isn't the time for an increase.

"I'm a teacher in North Carolina and I have not gotten an increase, even a cost of living increase in four years. In addition to that, one of those years I got a rate decrease," said one woman.

"At at time when every single family is studying their bills penny by the penny, at a time when people are sweating more in the summer and feeling colder in the winter to save a few dollars on their utilities bills in my opinion is an outrage," said one man.

In 1991, Duke Energy increased rates by 4.1 percent.

Rates stayed flat for 16 years until they dropped a total of seven percent in 2007-2008.

In 2010, Duke Energy's rates increased eight percent, which was phased in over two years.

The Director of the Electric Division of the Public Staff of the Utilities Commission, James McLawhorn, said they're not aware of any time Duke Energy has been given 100 percent of the increase it proposed.

Duke Energy is asking for an 18.6 percent increase. We wanted to give you an idea of other utility changes in recent years. Not all of these had to be approved by the utilities commission.

When it comes to water rates, The City of Greensboro's rates decreased in 2010 and 2011, both times by three-percent.

Winston-Salem's water rates increased 10 percent in 2010 and again by eight percent in 2011. Winston-Salem sewer rates increased by 11 percent in 2010 and nine percent in 2011.

Piedmont Natural Gas has had three rate increases approved by the Utilities Commission in the last ten years. The most recent was in 2008, when their fixed rate increased 1.5 percent in overall revenues. However, the fixed rate makes up only 25-30 percent of the bill. The rest of your bill, about 70 percent of it, is determined by wholesale gas costs. David Trusty, with Piedmont Natural Gas, said customers can expect their winter bills to be 10 percent lower than last year during the winter.

Who is part of the Utilities Commission?

There are seven members and they're appointed by the governor and serve eight year terms.

Members of the commission are lawyers, educators, even a former mayor.

They earn more than $123,000 dollars a year and regulates electric, telephone, natural gas, water, wastewater, buses and ferryboats.

Chairman Edward Finley told News 2 Thursday night the commission should have an answer by January. They can approve the whole request, part of it, or none of it.

WFMY News 2

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