The North Carolina Utilities Commission wants to hear from you: On Tuesday, March 5, the commission will hold a local public hearing on Progress Energy Carolinas' request to raise residential, commercial and industrial electricity rates by an average of 12 percent.
The company says it needs to fund capital improvements, such as new natural-gas plants and transmission lines, to provide "reliable and reasonably cost-effective service," according to Len Green, senior staff attorney for the commission. In a fact sheet about the increase, Progress also notes, “Approximately 84 percent of the [request] reflects … investments made to modernize our system,” and cites the resulting improvements, such as a 62 percent reduction in nitrogen oxygen emissions produced by its plants.
But Consumers Against Rate Hikes — a coalition of groups from across the state — says that Progress Energy customers have already seen monthly electricity bills rise by 25 percent since 1993 as the company raised rates to cover higher fuel costs. “Progress has been making 12.75 percent [profit] at the expense of low- and middle-income people, and now they want to raise residential rates," says Carley Ruff, policy and outreach coordinator for the N.C. Housing Coalition, one of the coalition members. Other CARH members include the AARP of North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.
"This will mean more foreclosures, more disconnects in the winter, more small businesses failing and tighter school budgets,” says Ruff.
Progress — which merged with Duke Energy last year — serves much of Western North Carolina, including Asheville. Duke is also requesting hikes in other parts of the state, but the commission is considering the proposals separately, Green reports. The March 5 hearing in Buncombe County is the only one scheduled for this area, and the commission is expected to make a decision later this spring.
Progress Energy wants the new rates to take effect in June.
Says Green, "The commission wants to make sure that they hear from the Progress Energy customers.”
Jake Frankel can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 115, or at email@example.com.