Rate hike schedule penalizes the poor, seniors, and those trying to save energy
RALEIGH — The effect of the proposed Progress Energy rate hike on the average residential consumer is nearly double the 4.7 percent increase that is being presented by the NC Utilities Commission’s Public Staff, according to a new analysis conducted by the utility watchdog NC WARN.
Under the terms of the agreement, residential rate payers using 1000 kWh per month would pay a rate hike of 10.42%. This would jump to 10.76% if the Commission approves the proposed Industrial Economic Rider where selected industrial users will escape any rate hike. The average residential household uses approximately 1000 kWh per month.
Jim Warren of NC WARN explains, “The Public Staff is claiming they halved Progress’s rate increase request, but for residential consumers, the settlement gives the company nearly everything it asked for.” Progress originally applied for an 11% overall rate increase which included a 14.2% rate increase for residential consumers.
Warren added, “It hardly seems right that the less you use, the more you pay. While residents look for ways to save money, conserve energy and reduce our carbon footprint, the percentage of rate increase grows as customers use less electricity, from 6.98% for 5000 kWh per month to 33.69% for 100 kWh per month.”
“The electric rate hike will certainly be a shock for low-income families and seniors on fixed incomes,” said Doug Dickerson, Executive Director of North Carolina AARP. “It is exactly opposite of a responsible rate-setting policy and the reason why many AARP members are going to the public hearing in Raleigh tonight to voice their concerns to the Commission.”
Bill Gupton of Consumers against Rate Hikes (CARH) also is concerned. A February 27th poll conducted by his coalition showed that 67% of respondents said the Utilities Commission should try to help low-income people and seniors on fixed incomes. At the same time, only 2% said the Commission should try to help large businesses and industries. “North Carolina residents have made their priorities clear, but the Commission is helping Progress Energy do the exact opposite,” he said today.
Carley Ruff, of the NC Housing Coalition, which helps many limited-income residents said, “We believe people can save money with home weatherization, energy efficiency, and by using solar and wind power. However, Progress Energy, and its new owner Duke Energy, are pursuing a policy of incentivizing higher usage that could drive up consumption.”
Becky Ceartas, an organizer with Greenpeace, pointed out that the CARH poll showed 76% of the respondents said that the Commission should consider pollution and climate change when planning how to generate electricity – while only 16% said it should not. “The right path forward for both consumers and the environment is the same path. The path Progress Energy is trying to take us on is wrong on both counts,” she said.
The groups are counting on a large number of residential consumers to express their concerns at the NC Utilities Commission’s public hearing in Raleigh on Wednesday night. They are also continuing to collect petition signatures to present to the Commission before a final ruling.
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