Granting Progress Energy a 7.5 percent increase in power bills while many North Carolinians are struggling to make ends meet is wrong, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday.
“Many people are already hard pressed to pay their bills, and now isn’t the time to ask them to pay more so utilities can make a bigger profit,” Cooper said.
Cooper filed Monday, July 1, with the N.C. Supreme Court to appeal the rate hike by Duke Energy Progress, formerly Progress Energy, which was approved in May by the North Carolina Utilities Commission. Cooper had previously opposed the rate increase before the Commission.
The appeal focuses not on whether Progress should be allowed to recover its investments, but on whether it should be allowed to raise customers’ rates in order to make a 10.2 percent shareholder profit and a capital structure of 53 percent equity in this challenging economic climate.
In the notice of appeal, Cooper argues that Progress failed to prove its case for higher rates and that the Utilities Commission erred in approving the increase. The appeal contends that the evidence experts put forward to help the company make its case did not take customers’ interests into account, except “at most, indirectly or as afterthoughts.” Testimony from actual customers at public hearings strongly opposed the increase as a burden during tough economic times.
As noted in the appeal, the N.C. Supreme Court issued a ruling April 12 that agreed with Cooper’s assessment that state law (NCGS § 62-133) requires the Utilities Commission to consider changing economic conditions in setting utility rates that are fair to consumers.
The ruling was issued in response to Cooper’s appeal of a 7.2 percent rate increase by Duke Energy. The Supreme Court ordered the Utilities Commission to determine the impact on consumers before setting an allowable profit margin and agreeing to raise rates.
Cooper believes that ruling should serve as a guide for the Utilities Commission in considering all rate hike requests, and that the commission didn’t adequately consider the impact on consumers before granting Progress’s rate increase.
“Just talking about how consumers are hurting isn’t enough. As required by the North Carolina Supreme Court, we need a true analysis of what this rate hike would really mean for consumers during these challenging economic times,” Cooper said.