Over the years Progress Energy customers have fine-tuned the art of kvetching about their power bills, often forgetting that electricity costs here are well below the national average.
That conversation is about to be pitched a few octaves higher.
The Raleigh-based power company expects to file for a rate increase as soon as Friday that could raise the average Progress Energy household electricity bill in North Carolina by more than $120 a year. For customers who typically pay about $103 a month for power, the economic effect of the requested increase would be like paying for an extra month of electricity during the year.
The company’s request will land with a thud at the N.C. Utilities Commission barely three months after Progress was acquired by Charlotte-based Duke Energy. The merging utilities sold their $32 billion deal for its potential to benefit customers by holding down corporate operating costs.
Progress will spell out its rationale in voluminous filings, emphasizing the multibillion-dollar expense of expanding transmission systems and building new power plants. If not for the Progress-Duke merger, officials are likely to say, the rate increase would have been greater.
“There’s never a good time to file for a rate increase,” Progress spokesman Mike Hughes said. “Any request is going to be unpopular, there’s no question about it. But it’s important to have the revenue stream that we need to insure that we have a reliable system.”
Armed with historical charts and spreadsheets, Progress will find few allies among its 1.3 million customers in the state.