N.C. AG weighs in on Duke Energy rate increase

Bryan Cohen Jan. 10, 2012, 1:32pm


RALEIGH, N.C. (Legal Newsline) - North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper filed a brief on Monday urging utility commissioners to consider the economic damage to consumers before signing off on Duke Energy's rate increase.

Cooper filed the brief before the NC Utilities Commission. He opposes the company's request to raise the rates it charges its customers for electricity and filed official arguments in the rate case.

"The commission should come down on the side of consumers when considering a fair rate of return for Duke, especially in this economy," Cooper said.

Businesses, homeowners and other Duke customers have dealt with declining home values, job losses, lower manufacturing and sales and some are currently having difficulty paying their bills, Cooper said.

"We want to work together to move our state forward, but a sharp increase now would be difficult for many North Carolina families and businesses," Cooper said.

Cooper's Consumer Protection Division questioned Duke Energy's experts in November, asking whether experts who calculated the rate of return to company shareholders took changing economic conditions into account. The experts allegedly had not taken this factor into account, nor had they studied the protests consumers filed over the proposed rate increase. In addition, Duke Energy officials allegedly stated that the utility will file for another rate increase later this year. The brief said that the commissioners should consider the impact of a lower rate of return for shareholders of the utility and its ability to raise capital.

Duke Energy applied earlier this year to the Utilities Commission to request that the company be able to increase its revenues by approximately $646 million. The earnings increase would be levied in the form of higher electricity bills to consumers. If the proposed rate hike is approved, it would raise the average monthly bill for a Duke consumers by approximately 17 percent.

Hundreds of consumers in North Carolina have written to Cooper asking for help and expressing concern about higher electricity costs. Cooper's office has filed copies of the letters with the Clerk for the Utilities Commission, allowing commissioners to be aware of consumers' views on the proposed rate hike.

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