By John Downey
Opposition to multiyear rate hikes rose to the forefront of objections from manufacturers, environmental and public interest groups who are speaking out against a sweeping reform of utility regulations pending before the N.C. General Assembly.
Such rate increases — where utilities could propose plans to raise rates over three years without additional approval from regulators — were defeated in a more focused proposal in 2019. And many speakers at a press conference held Monday by opponents of the new energy legislation, House Bill 951, called on legislators to defeat the proposal again.
Kevin Martin, executive director of the Carolina Utility Customers Association, represented his manufacturers group in five months of meetings with some interested parties to help draft the bill. But he says that, in that process, “one voice was heard above all others.”
“This bill was supposed to be about fixing problems, but it is not,” he said. “It’s about Duke Energy protecting its earnings and getting multiyear rate planning.”
The issue came up again and again as textile manufacturers, environmental advocates and customer interest groups took the bill to task.