The North Carolina Utilities Commission received an application from Carolina Power & Light Company, doing business as Progress Energy Carolinas, Inc., requesting authority to adjust and increase its rates for retail electric service in North Carolina.
In this application, the company is requesting authority to increase its rates and charges to produce additional overall annual North Carolina retail base revenues of approximately $387 million, an increase of around 12 percent over current revenues. The company serves nearly 1.5 million retail customers in North and South Carolina.
The application has been scheduled for investigation and public hearings. Anyone who wishes to present testimony for the record should appear at one of the public hearings. Persons who desire to send written statements to inform the Commission of their positions in the matter should address their statements to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, 4325 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4325, and reference Docket No. E-2 Sub 1023. However, such written statements cannot be considered competent evidence unless those persons appear at a hearing and testify concerning the information contained in their written statements, state officials said.
Five public hearings are scheduled — including one in Rockingham — for the purpose of receiving the testimony of public witnesses only. The local public hearing is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 20 in the Richmond County Courthouse at 105 W. Franklin St., Rockingham.
Rising utility rates have consumer groups speaking up on behalf of North Carolinians. In the past nine years, Progress Energy raised rates by 25 percent, and Duke Energy raised rates by 19 percent in just three years, according to N.C. Justice Center. With the recent merger of the utilities, there are concerns that rates could double in the next 10 years, according to Al Ripley, with the Justice Center.
“Since our customers are dealing with a monopoly, we have to be very certain to have adequate safeguards against unnecessary rate increases. Currently, we’re not getting strong enough protection from the utility commission,” said Ripley.
Although approved, it will take about two years for the Duke Energy and Progress Energy merger to be in full effect.
Pete McDowell is program manager for the consumer watchdog group NC Warn. He and others are also concerned about the business model of Duke and Progress Energy to charge industrial customers markedly less than residential customers. He points to the more than 10 server farms now in North Carolina and supplied electricity by Duke Energy, paying rates that are 50 percent less than other customers.
“Duke Energy has been very actively recruiting these big server farms and charging them very little and making residents and small businesses essentially subsidize their rates,” said McDowell.
McDowell said many residents on a fixed income are having a difficult time paying their utility bills. There were 240,000 electric shutoffs by Progress Energy last year alone. The state’s largest consumer group, AARP, is also concerned about the rate hikes and has a petition on its website at http://action.aarp.org/site/PageServer?pagename=UtilityPetition_NC_20121213.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.