by Taft Wireback
First off, let’s face the hard truth. After several weeks of expert testimony that ended Thursday in Raleigh, it’s a pretty good bet your light bill is going up later this year.
Like it or not, your bill’s probably going up to deal with coal ash waste generated for decades by coal-fired power plants and never given a proper burial.
The state Utilities Commission also is likely to grant Duke Energy Carolinas an increase to cover higher costs of keeping its basic system humming smoothly along … or sputtering occasionally, depending on your point of view.
In addition, rates for Duke Energy Carolinas customers across the Triad are probably going up to pay for an abortive effort to build a nuclear plant in South Carolina.
And they might also go up for something that Duke Energy calls “grid modernization,” which critics dismiss as a lot of deferred maintenance gussied up in corporate double talk.
Approval for a hike in power rates seems likely because the North Carolina Utilities Commission dealt recently with the same or similar issues as those involved in the current Duke Energy Carolinas rate-hike request.
Only last month, it ruled in a companion rate case involving Duke Energy Progress — the corporate division that serves other parts of the state.
In that Feb. 23 decision, the commission stopped well short of giving Duke Energy Progress everything it asked for, but the statewide board approved more than many consumer advocates, environmentalists and other critics thought wise. Ultimately, the commission approved less than half the $419.5 million increase in annual revenues that Duke Energy Progress had sought.
But the commission’s ruling last month approved changes that raised the average, Duke Energy Progress residential customer’s monthly bill a little more than $5 to about $113.50.
Cary-based energy consultant Kevin O’Donnell said that while he disagrees with the Duke Energy Progress outcome, “yes, I believe the (Duke Energy Progress) order set somewhat of a precedent for the (Duke Energy Carolinas) case.”
“I hope I am wrong,” added O’Donnell, who testified before the commission recently against key parts of the proposed, Duke Energy Carolinas increase on behalf of the Carolinas Utility Customers Association, a manufacturers’ trade group.
Duke Energy Carolinas is seeking a $507 million increase in annual income after reaching a partial settlement with the Utilities Commission’s public staff that looks out for the consumer in cases pending before the panel.