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AG Cooper to appeal Duke rate hike — Charlotte Observer

By Bruce Henderson

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday he will appeal the 4.5 percent rate hike granted to Duke Energy Carolinas this week.

The appeal is not unexpected. Cooper successfully challenged Duke Carolinas’ 2011 rate increase – now back before the N.C. Utilities Commission and unresolved – and appealed recent rate hikes for Duke Energy Progress and Dominion North Carolina Power.

Duke Carolinas’ increase would rise to an overall 5.1 percent after two years, about half its original request, and cost typical residential customers about $7.60 extra each month. It also allows Duke a 10.2 percent return on equity, or allowable profit margin – Cooper’s target.

“The evidence just isn’t there to support a double-digit profit margin,” Cooper said. “The (N.C.) Supreme Court told the utilities commission specifically to take consumers into account when setting the return on equity. The commission spent a lot of time talking about consumers, but the results were the same. It appears we’re going to have to go back to the Supreme Court to see who’s right.”

NC WARN, a Durham clean-energy group that had claimed Duke tried to recover inappropriate expenses in the rate case, decried the “regulatory coziness with the world’s largest corporate utility.” “With unemployment high and interest rates low, it is unconscionable for Duke and the commission to raise rates repeatedly and request a guaranteed profit of 10.2 percent – especially when that profit far exceeds the maximum level the Public Staff’s own expert argued for,” WARN said.

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