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State will appeal latest Duke Energy rate hike

Utilities Commission failed to adequately consider consumers, Cooper says

RALEIGH, N.C. : September 25, 2013 - Approval granted late yesterday for another rate hike for Duke Energy customers fails to adequately consider the impact on consumers and will be appealed, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday.
“The order approving this rate hike talks a lot about consumers but doesn’t really consider their interests,” Cooper said.  “Just paying lip service to the challenges North Carolinian's face in tough economic times is not enough.”
On Tuesday, the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved the latest rate increase requested by Duke Energy Carolinas, which could raise consumers’ rates by 4.5 percent for the first two years and then 5.1 percent after that.  That increase would allow the utility to make a 10.2 percent shareholder profit and a capital structure of 53 percent equity in a challenging economic climate.
In an April 12 ruling, the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed with Cooper’s assessment that state law (NCGS § 62-133) requires the Utilities Commission to determine the impact on consumers before setting an allowable profit margin and agreeing to raise rates.
“The law requires the Commission to set rates as low as possible, and they haven’t done that here,” Cooper said.  “The top court in the state agreed with us that consumers must be taken into account when deciding the utility’s profit margin.”
The higher rates approved by the Commission yesterday comes on top of a 7.2 percent rate hike for Duke Energy customers put in place earlier this year, which Cooper fought all the way to the North Carolina Supreme Court, winning the ruling that set a new precedent for utility rate cases.
He is continuing to push the Commission to reduce the 7.2 percent rate increase, and is also fighting a 7.5 percent rate increase for Duke Energy Progress, formerly Progress Energy, that was approved by the Commission earlier this year.
According to an analysis by Moody’s, North Carolinian's currently pay a higher percentage of their household disposable income for electricity than all but six other states in the nation.