Duke is trying to charge families, small businesses $8 million annually for industrial schmoozing
[NOTE: This is the first in a series of revelations NC WARN will roll out as our legal team reviews thousands of documents obtained in Duke Energy Carolinas’ new rate case.]
Durham, NC – Duke Energy is seeking to charge North Carolina households and small businesses over $8 million a year to pay for employees who service large industrial and commercial customers. Such Major Account Representatives provide zero benefit to small customers, and NC WARN will seek to have the $8 million thrown out of Duke’s rate case or charged entirely to the large customers who receive the service when evidentiary hearings begin on July 8.
In the last two rate cases by Duke and subsidiary Progress Energy, NC WARN argued that the utilities manipulate rates so that small customers – families, local governments and small businesses – are forced to pay millions in annual expenses attributable to data centers and other rich corporate customers.
Such “rate rigging” enables the utilities to offer rock-bottom rates to energy-hogging data centers, which Duke is aggressively recruiting but which create very few jobs. Also called “server farms,” big energy users like Apple, Facebook and Google help Duke argue it needs to build more power plants – a key to boosting its profits.
One example from the current rate case is Duke expense account 910, which contains over $6 million in salaries and expenses for Major Account Representatives over a one-year period. Duke seeks to charge 86% of that account to households and 12% to small business owners. Only 2% would be charged to the customers receiving the special attention.
Duke says it cannot report what was spent to wine and dine the big customers – despite two requests by NC WARN.
If successful in the rate case, Duke would lock in the $8 million (including #910 and other accounts) as an annual charge to the small customers indefinitely – even if the utility actually spends far less in any year.
Duke’s scheme to force families, small businesses and local governments to pay for employees who cater to the largest customers is a cynical corporate ploy that must be rejected.
We will soon unveil additional abuses contained in documents we have obtained as an intervener in Duke Energy’s rate case.