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AG Cooper details opposition to Duke Energy rate increase

Release date: 1/9/2012

Electric utility’s requested rate hike too much, brief says

Raleigh: Utilities commissioners should heed the economic damage to North Carolina consumers before signing off on Duke Energy’s rate increase, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Monday in a filing before the NC Utilities Commission.
Cooper opposes Duke Energy’s request to raise the rates it charges its customers for electricity, and filed official arguments in the rate case Monday. 
“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.
Homeowners, businesses and other Duke customers have endured job losses, declining home values, lower manufacturing and sales, the brief notes. Some are even unable to pay their bills now, witnesses at a recent hearing acknowledged.
“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 intervened in the rate case and questioned Duke Energy’s experts in November. During that hearing, AG attorneys questioned whether experts who calculated the rate of return to Duke Energy shareholders also took “changing economic conditions” into account as outlined in NCGS § 62-133. 
The experts had not considered changing economic conditions, nor had they studied consumers’ protests over the proposed rate increase, according to testimony. That’s reason for the NC Utilities Commission to stop the rate hike, the brief argues.
In addition, the brief says that Duke Energy officials have stated the utility will file for another rate increase later this year, so Commissioners could consider then the impact of a lower rate of return on Duke Energy shareholders and the utility’s ability raise capital.
Earlier this year, Duke Energy applied to the Utilities Commission to request that the company be allowed to increase its revenues by approximately $646 million. That earnings increase would be passed along to consumers in the form of higher electricity bills. If approved by the Utilities Commission, the proposed rate hike would have raised the average Duke customer’s monthly bill by approximately 17 percent.
Hundreds of North Carolinians have written to Cooper asking for help and expressing their concern about higher electricity costs.
The Attorney General’s Office has filed copies of the letters with the Clerk for the Utilities Commission so that commissioners will be aware of consumers’ views on the proposed increase.

Contact: Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413