The decision to grant Duke Energy a seven percent increase in power bills during tough economic times is wrong for North Carolina consumers and businesses, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Tuesday. Cooper filed today to appeal the Duke Energy rate hike approved earlier this year by the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
“The economic realities faced by North Carolina consumers must be put before company profits,” Cooper said. “Hundreds of people have contacted my office to let us know they can’t afford to pay much more for electricity in these tough times.”
The appeal focuses not on whether Duke Energy should be allowed to recover its investments, but on whether it should be allowed to raise customers’ rates in order to make a 10.5 percent shareholder profit in this challenging economic climate.
The Utilities Commission failed to properly take into account economic conditions faced by consumers as required by NCGS § 62-133, Cooper’s office contends in the appeal. The appeal points out that none of the experts who testified in support of the increase looked at the impact higher electricity rates would have on Duke Energy consumers who may be on fixed incomes or struggling with job losses, business customers facing reduced income, or taxpayers who fund government agencies and local schools.
In the appeal, Cooper argues that the Utilities Commissioners’ decision to grant a rate hike is not supported by evidence, particularly when the overwhelming majority of testimony by the public opposed a rate increase because any rate increase right now would be a burden.
“Many families and businesses are already struggling to pay their bills and the court needs to take this into account,” Cooper said.
Earlier this year, Duke Energy applied to the Utilities Commission to request that the company be allowed to increase its revenues by approximately $646 million, to be passed along to consumers in the form of higher electricity bills. The rate hike originally proposed would have raised the average Duke customer’s monthly bill by approximately 17 percent. Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division intervened in the rate case last year on behalf of North Carolina consumers.