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Duke Energy’s mandatory fee plan is unwise and unfair — The News & Observer

Op-Ed by T. Anthony Spearman and Doug Dickerson

For most North Carolinians, the electric bill is a fact of life, an unavoidable part of the household budget. When times are tight, as they are for far too many of our constituents, families must find a way to pay. Otherwise, they risk having essential electric services shut off. For some, it’s an impossible choice between food, medicine and power.

We do what we can to conserve power and cut costs by turning off appliances, adjusting the thermostat and installing LED bulbs.

Duke Energy’s proposed rate hike has not received enough public scrutiny. But often overlooked is Duke’s requested increase in mandatory fees. These mandatory fees – called a basic customer charge – reduce our already-limited control over our electric bills.

Duke Energy Progress asked the Utilities Commission to allow it to increase its mandatory fee by a staggering 75 percent. This proposed increase is on top of the big increase in the mandatory fee approved in 2013, when the fixed charge went from $6.75 to the current level of $11.13. If Duke got what it wanted this time around, the monthly flat fee would have tripled from 2013 levels, going up to $19.50 per month.

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