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Duke Energy Rate Hikes

Duke Energy Progress has requested a rate increase of:

  • 14.9% average across all customers
  • 16.7% increase for residential customers
  • 15.4% increase for small general service customers
  • 12.9% for medium general service customers
  • 13.4% for large general service customers

The average residential bill would increase $17.80 if the rate hike is approved.

Duke Energy Progress has asked for a 2.3% increase in customers’ fuel rates in addition to this rate hike. Together, the increases come to 19 percent for residential rates and would increase bills by an average $20 per month, a tremendous hardship for families least able to afford it.

Duke has requested a similar rate hike for customers in its Duke Energy Carolinas territory. Check back soon for details.

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Talking Points

This large rate hike request is a symptom of Duke Energy’s business model of constructing fracked gas-burning power plants and raising rates while working with the Koch brothers to stifle the growth of renewable energy. If Duke is allowed to continue on this track, there will be many more rate increases.

And if Duke Energy’s massive expansion of fracked gas succeeds without considerably stronger scrutiny and challenge, the hyper-potent methane spewing unburned from gas wells, pipelines and power plants will be a key factor in driving humanity into runaway climate chaos.

Among the concerns NC WARN has identified in the application for a rate increase:

  • Coal ash:  In addition to seeking $330 million over five years for coal ash clean-up activities so far, Duke seeks to charge customers $129 million per year for future clean-ups – with no end date specified – a pre-charging we believe is unlawful.
    • As detailed in NC WARN’s March 7th motion in a related case, state laws do not allow Duke Energy to charge customers for costs resulting from unlawful activities, lawsuit settlements or criminal convictions.
    • Recently, several insurance companies refused to pay liability claims, pointing out that Duke Energy knew its coal ash practices were risky.  How much have Duke Energy executives and shareholders already profited from risky practices of handling coal ash?  And why should customers bail out the company when those risky practices backfire?
  • The exorbitant rate increase would be highest for residential customers, with the toughest impact on low- and fixed-income families due to a 75% increase in the residential basic service charge, a flat fee that would jump to $19.50 per month even if no power were used.
  • In past rate cases, the Commission’s Public Staff did not conduct in-depth review of all utility expenses, only a sampling.  In Duke Energy’s previous rate case, NC WARN’s witness exposed nearly $100 million of improper annual expenses, leading Duke’s state president to open the four-day hearing by apologizing for “accounting errors.”  Improper charges are likely present in the current request, making careful scrutiny from all parties critical.
  • Duke Energy wants customers to pay $45 million for its failed, seven-year effort to license and build two new reactors at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant.

A Further Concern: Backroom Deals

NC WARN is urging state regulators to break their pattern of settling rate cases and mergers with Duke Energy behind closed doors.  The long-running practice undercuts the public wellbeing and gives the utility exactly what it really wants – covered by a thin pretense of regulatory oversight.  We are also calling on Attorney General Josh Stein not to be drawn into backroom negotiations, and instead to stand up for the public against allowing Duke’s attempt to recover billions in coal ash clean-up costs that were caused by its executives’ illegal actions.

In a letter sent to the attorney general and Chris Ayers, head of the NC Utilities Commission’s Public Staff, we noted that in the past several rate cases, “premature settlement has made involvement by the public and intervenors almost meaningless.”  Last year, for the fifth straight time in a major Duke Energy case, the Public Staff undermined fair process by cutting a backroom deal with the utility; that time, they didn’t even await input from the public or parties to the case.

Public Hearings

Rockingham: Tuesday, September 12, 2017, at 7:00 p.m.
Richmond County Courthouse, Courtroom A, 105 W. Franklin Street

Raleigh: Monday, September 25, 2017, at 7:00 p.m.
Commission Hearing Room 2115, Dobbs Building, 430 N. Salisbury Street

Asheville: Wednesday, September 27, 2017, at 7:00 p.m.
Buncombe County Courthouse, Courtroom 1A, 60 Court Plaza

Snow Hill: Wednesday, October 11, 2017, at 7:00 p.m.
Greene County Courthouse, 301 N. Greene Street

Wilmington: Thursday, October 12, 2017, at 7:00 p.m.
New Hanover County Courthouse, 316 Princess Street

More on the hearings here.

More information

NC WARN news release on rate case (7/11/17)

NC WARN letter to Attorney General, Public Staff demanding no backroom settlement of rate case (7/6/17)

News release announcing NC WARN opposition to large rate increase to pay for coal ash cleanup (3/8/17)

News release from 2016 on pattern of backroom deals between Duke Energy and regulators (7/7/16)

Media reports