Utilities Commission broke protocol by approving renewables plan without scrutiny and despite major discrepancies
The NC Utilities Commission has sided with Duke Energy in yet another controversial matter – this time without even requiring Duke to address questions by Wal-Mart, NC WARN and others, and without allowing those groups to provide formal comments on Duke’s Green Source Rider proposal.
North Carolina homeowners and businesses deserve far better treatment by regulators employed by the public.
With the state’s entire electricity future in great flux, the public deserves full transparency on issues affecting power bills and climate change.
The Commission can – technically – approve some utility proposals without conducting a formal docket process that allows interested parties to question a utility and provide formal comments. But it has rarely, if ever, done so unless a utility proposal is noncontroversial.
The regulators and Duke have been heavily criticized in proceedings over the past two years – for backroom deal-making, hiding information and the utility’s attempts to overcharge customers millions of dollars.
Just before the December holiday break, the Commission surprised observers by rubber-stamping Duke Energy’s long-delayed proposal to offer renewable power to its largest business customers. The move came despite serious uncertainty about whether any new clean energy would actually be generated in the Carolinas – or anywhere else. And despite unanswered questions about whether smaller customers would be hit with higher rates.
There is much vagueness in Duke’s proposal, and important differences between its written words and what Duke told reporters about the program. NC WARN’s concerns include:
- That it is limited to Duke’s largest and richest industrial customers;
- That, as written, it could rely solely on existing and/or out-of-state renewable sources, thus providing no benefits to any North Carolina customers or to carbon reduction;
- That it could provide incentives for new high load industries to locate in Duke’s service area, driving construction of power plants that small customers would be forced to pay for.
With proposals carrying such broad impacts, the Commission must allow for open scrutiny including document discovery and cross-examination of Duke officials.
This ruling increases concerns about the independence of the NC Utilities Commission.
Our earlier news releases on Duke’s Green Source Rider:
Will Duke’s Upcoming Solar Power Plan be Good for North Carolinians or Drive Rates Even Higher?, August 8, 2013
Is Duke Energy Promoting Carolina Solar – or Just Pretending To?, November 18, 2013
Clean Energy Group Questions Duke Energy’s Offer of Renewables to Giant Customers, December 4, 2013
NC regulators consider Duke Energy’s green-power pilot, Charlotte Business Journal, December 16, 2013