Duke rate hike hearing rescheduled

RALLYING AGAINST RATE HIKE: A demonstration outside the Buncombe County Courthouse in September outlined the reasons people opposed a 15 percent rate increase by Duke Energy Progress. The final hearing in that rate request was supposed to happen in Raleigh today, but has been postponed a week as the parties negotiate a settlement. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe
RALLYING AGAINST RATE HIKE: A demonstration outside the Buncombe County Courthouse in September outlined the reasons people opposed a 15 percent rate increase by Duke Energy Progress. The final hearing in that rate request was supposed to happen in Raleigh today, but has been postponed a week as the parties negotiate a settlement. Photo by Carolyn Morrisroe

Residents of Western North Carolina concerned about a proposed hike in their electric bills could have to wait a bit longer to see just how much their bills will go up. A filing on Friday, Nov. 17 with the North Carolina Utilities Commission pushed the final hearing in the case from today to next Monday as Duke negotiates a settlement.

On June 1, Duke Energy Progress filed a request with the N.C. Utilities Commission to raise rates an average of 14.9 percent, to take effect Jan. 1. Residential customers would see an average increase of 16.7 percent, and commercial and industrial rates would go up an average of 13.5 percent. A typical 1,000-kilowatt monthly residential bill would increase from $104.68 to $122.48.

If approved, the plan would affect DEP’s 1.3 million electric customers in the Asheville area and central and eastern North Carolina, and it would increase the company’s revenues by $477.5 million a year.

The commission held a series of hearings around the state to collect public feedback on the plan, including a lengthy hearing in Asheville in September where residents expressed myriad reasons why Duke should not receive the requested rate hike and environmental advocates put on a colorful street theater demonstration.

A final evidentiary hearing was slated for Monday, Nov. 20, at which the commission would hear expert witness testimony from Duke Energy Progress, public staff and any other parties to the proceeding. That hearing is now postponed to Monday, Nov. 27 at 1:30 p.m. in Raleigh.

Duke spokesperson Jeff Brooks told Xpress last summer that Duke must demonstrate to the NCUC why the rate increase is needed. “The public staff (who represents the customer) and other interested stakeholders audit our filings and vet the company’s request” prior to the hearings, he said. Duke expects a decision from the commission around the first of the year, he added.

Jim Warren, executive director of NC WARN, a nonprofit focused on cleaner energy alternatives, states in a Nov. 20 release that the hearing was postponed “because the regulators are arranging a backroom settlement with Duke Energy.” “This continues a longstanding and outrageous pattern: the regulators cut a private deal with Duke Energy that undermines other parties’ cases and shields Duke from full and open scrutiny,” he states.

For more background on the issue, see “Duke sparks debate with request for 15% rate hike” and “WNC residents rail against Duke rate hike.”

Below is the text of the order rescheduling the hearing:

In the Matter of Application of Duke Energy Progress, LLC, for Adjustment of Rates and Charges Applicable to Electric Utility Service in North Carolina

ORDER RESCHEDULING HEARING BY THE CHAIRMAN

The expert witness hearing in the above-captioned docket is presently scheduled to begin on Monday, November 20, 2017, at 1:00 p.m.

On November 17, 2017, Duke Energy Progress, LLC (DEP) and the Public Staff (Movants) gave verbal notice to the Commission that they are discussing a partial settlement regarding several issues involved in DEP’s general rate case application. Further, Movants state that they may be in position to file a statement regarding a partial settlement on Monday, November 20, 2017, and that they anticipate that such partial settlement would eliminate the need for a substantial amount of cross-examination of witnesses. Therefore, Movants request that the hearing be cancelled for next week and rescheduled to begin on Monday, November 27, 2017, at 1:30 p.m.

Based on the foregoing and the record, the Chairman is of the opinion that it would be helpful for all parties to have the opportunity to review any proposed partial settlement prior to beginning the hearing. Further, as presently scheduled the hearing would be limited to one and one-half days next week due to the Thanksgiving holidays. Therefore, the Chairman finds good cause to grant the Movants’ motion to reschedule the hearing.

IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED as follows:

1. That the hearing scheduled to begin on Monday, November 20, 2017, at 1:00 p.m., shall be, and is hereby, cancelled.

2. That the hearing is hereby rescheduled to begin on Monday, November 27, 2017, at 1:30 p.m., and will proceed thereafter as necessary.

ISSUED BY ORDER OF THE COMMISSION. This the 17th day of November, 2017.

NORTH CAROLINA UTILITIES COMMISSION

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About Carolyn Morrisroe
Carolyn Morrisroe is the news editor and city government reporter at Mountain Xpress. She can be reached at cmorrisroe@mountainx.com. Follow me @CarolynMorrisro

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