Press release from Southern Environmental Law Center:
CHAPEL HILL, N.C.–The North Carolina Utilities Commission today issued an order on Duke Energy Progress’s proposal to increase rates and charges that allowed Duke Energy Progress to increase its fixed fee charge to North Carolina customers. A coalition of consumer and clean energy advocates—the North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Housing Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center—intervened in the case to oppose DEP’s regressive proposal to increase its mandatory fixed fees; to support greater investments in energy efficiency to help mitigate the impact of the rate increase, especially on low-income customers struggling to pay their bills; and to press for more robust collection and reporting of data on customer energy usage and demographics to help address the problem of energy affordability.
“We are disappointed that the commission did not stand up for customers—especially those struggling to pay their bills, which are now more than 1.4 million households,” said Gudrun Thompson, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “While Duke is enjoying record profits, the commission undercut customers’ ability to reduce their energy use and lower their bills with cost-effective energy efficiency.”
The commission approved an increase in DEP’s monthly “basic customer charge” for residential customers, a mandatory fee that each customer must pay regardless of energy usage, from $11.13 to $14.00 per month.
“Customers will not appreciate the commissions’ decision to further expand guaranteed revenues to Duke Energy,” said John Wilson of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “This unwarranted increase in mandatory fees for electric service means customers have less opportunity to use energy efficiency to control how high their electric bills can go.”
The commission also approved a partial settlement between NCJC, NCHC, NRDC and SACE that requires DEP to contribute $2.5 million to the “Helping Home Fund,” a successful program that supplements the federal Weatherization Assistance Program by providing low-income customers with energy-efficient home upgrades to help them save money on their electric bills and improve comfort, safety and health.
“While we are certainly disappointed with other aspects of the commission’s decision, we applaud the approval of Dukes additional 2 1/2 million dollar contribution to the Helping Home Fund,” said Al Ripley of the North Carolina Justice Center. “Investments like this are an important step in trying to help North Carolina’s low income communities meet energy needs.”
The commission ignored/rejected the consumer and clean energy advocates’ recommendation to require DEP to work with stakeholders to develop and implement a data collection and reporting protocol for customer energy usage and demographics, in order to inform efforts to make essential electric service affordable for all.