RALEIGH, N.C., On August 18, 2023, the North Carolina Utilities Commission released an order approving Duke Energy Progress’s (DEP) proposal to raise rates for retail customers. The order approved a multiyear rate plan that will increase consumer rates by 17.2% over the next three years, with rates increasing 10.1% in the first year, followed by an additional 3.1% and 3.2% increase in years two and three.
Notably, these rate increases are in addition to Duke’s fuel cost increases, which are passed along directly to customers. In 2022, Duke Energy Progress’s fuel rider increased residential customer bills by almost 9% and the utility has requested another 5% increase this year.
These changes were approved by the Commission after a contested hearing. A coalition of consumer and clean energy advocates—the North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Housing Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Vote Solar, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, argued strongly against the rate hikes. The coalition pushed back against Duke Energy’s requested increase to the return on equity which raises Duke Energy shareholders’ compensation while placing a heavy burden on all consumers. We also argued against Duke Energy’s unprecedented level of spending on the distribution grid and shortcomings in their approach to performance-based ratemaking.
The coalition, though unsuccessful in preventing the rate increases, successfully negotiated a partial settlement. This settlement entails a $16 million contribution from shareholders over the next three years, aimed at supporting low-income households. Out of this contribution, $10 million will be allocated for critical health and safety repairs facilitating energy efficiency and weatherization upgrades to homes. The remaining $6 million will be directed to Duke Energy’s Share the Light fund, providing assistance to low-income customers struggling with overdue bills.
In addition, the Commission approved our settlement with Duke for a new Customer Assistance Program, which will provide significant relief to a significant number of low-income customers who struggle to afford their essential electric utility service. The Commission ordered Duke to continue to work with us and additional stakeholders on improvements to the design of the Customer Assistance Program and the potential to expand the program to reach even more customers in need.
The NC Justice Center and our coalition partners vehemently opposed these rate hikes. Making North Carolinians shoulder the cost of these billions of dollars in spending on the distribution grid, when that money could be better used to meet the state’s clean energy mandates is deeply unjust. Duke Energy’s grid is already highly reliable, and the utility has not justified the excessive amounts of spending on incremental reliability improvements, especially when we know that billions more in investments will be required to comply with the carbon reduction mandates under state law. We will continue to advocate for more sensible energy policy that better balances consumer interests with the transition to clean energy.