Duke Energy Carolinas has proposed a plan that would increase rates by nearly 18% for residents in affected areas over the next three years.
If approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, electricity rates for residents will increase about 10.5% in 2024, 3.8% in 2025 and 3.6% in 2026, amounting to respective monthly increases of $12.54, $3.90 and $3.18 for the typical residential customer.
The price hikes would compensate for the company’s $3.5 billion investment in clean energy and grid resiliency from severe weather and power outages since 2019, when Duke Energy initiated its last rate case.
Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, told WRAL News that the extra revenue generated would allow the company to strengthen the power grid and better transition to clean energy.
"We recognize that costs are up everywhere right now, and we're sensitive to that," said Brooks. "But this is a critical time for our state, and making these investments now are going to be essential if we're going to achieve our carbon goals in the future."
The Charlotte-based company argues that “customers are already benefiting from those infrastructure investments today, and rates should reflect investments made on their behalf.” They also claim that savings from reduced operating costs will be passed onto customers.
The reasons cited for the proposal include “increasing reliability and resiliency,” “operational excellence and enhancing the customer experience” and “achieving a cleaner and smarter energy future.”
Duke Energy will offer a Customer Assistance Program to “ease the energy burden of [its] most vulnerable customers,” which includes approximately 3.6% of residential customers. CAP will offer qualifying residents an automatic bill credit of $42 per month for one year.
Nonetheless, many residents oppose the rate increase. Sunrise Durham, a branch of the climate youth advocacy organization Sunrise Movement, has expressed concerns regarding fossil fuel expansion and inequitable burdens to lower-income residents and people of color.
Many residents, including representatives of Sunrise Durham, spoke at a public hearing held at the Durham County Courthouse on Monday.
“These rate hikes are not affordable for low-income or fixed-income residents in North Carolina,” said junior Felicia Wang, Sunrise Durham’s politics lead. “It’s designed to prevent ordinary citizens from having a say in their energy infrastructure and bills … we need transparency in rate design because our futures are at stake.”
Stacey Freeman, a Fayetteville resident and Duke Energy customer, said that the rate increases may force her to choose between paying rent, buying food or paying the electric bill.
The proposal will receive customer feedback and a NCUC hearing before it is approved. After the hearing, the commission will decide how rates will be adjusted.
Temporary rates will go into effect on Sept. 1, and Duke Energy expects a final decision on the case by the end of 2023. Permanent rates will start on Jan. 1, 2024.
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Michelle Brown is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.