Durham, NC – By approving another five percent rate hike with an order released last night, the NC Utilities Commission continued its support for Duke Energy’s business model of building dirty power plants and padding profits by gouging households and small businesses.
North Carolina’s regulators stand firmly with Duke Energy instead of the public. The top priority is keeping Duke’s stock price high instead of forcing the Charlotte-based giant to tighten its belt like other North Carolinians increasingly have to do.
As in last year’s merger case, this rate case was tainted by a disturbing lack of transparency throughout backroom settlement negotiations and evidentiary hearings.
Duke initially sought to charge customers $221 million more per year than it was willing to accept, larding its rate request with millions in improper annual expenses. The Commission’s Public Staff deemed tens of millions to be improper, but then gave back $47 million in annual revenue – just so Duke would close the deal and avoid full-blown debate during hearings.
To perpetuate power plant construction, the Commission has blessed Duke’s blatantly discriminatory rate-making, which places the financial burden of new power plants on residential and small business customers by allocating costs based on the single hottest hour of the year.
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.
Despite all these failings, this rate case did shine increasing light and negative publicity onto the rate-rigging game played by Duke and the regulators.
Sadly, the governmental dysfunction sweeping across North Carolina includes regulatory coziness with the world’s largest corporate utility.