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Cooper strikes deal with Piedmont to lessen rate hikes, increase conservation

Release date: 7/13/2006

Settlement could quadruple money going to rate relief and energy conservation

Raleigh: North Carolina customers of Piedmont Natural Gas would get a break on rates under an agreement being worked out by Attorney General Roy Cooper. The settlement which is subject to final approval would resolve Cooper’s appeal of a decision by the North Carolina Utilities Commission to allow Piedmont to raise its rates as customer usage drops.

“Families and businesses across North Carolina deserve relief from high energy costs,” said Cooper. “This agreement will give people’s wallets a little break while also helping us use energy more efficiently.”

Under the rate case, Piedmont is allowed a three year experiment with the customer utilization tracker (CUT) that allows their rates to change every six months based on declining per customer usage. During the experiment, the North Carolina Utilities Commission ordered Piedmont to pay $500,000 to promote energy conservation each year.

Cooper appealed the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court seeking lower rate hikes for consumers who use Piedmont gas in their homes and businesses and more funding for energy conservation.

As a result of the settlement, Piedmont consumers’ rates will rise less than they would have under the existing rate plan. Cooper has secured $1.5 million from Piedmont this year comprised of $750,000 in rate reductions and $750,000 to promote conservation in addition to the $500,000 already committed. The settlement could quadruple the amount of funds going to rate relief and energy conservation over the next three years from $1.5 million ($500,000 per year) under the previous plan to $6 million ($2 million per year).

Assuming that changes in customer usage are attributable to factors other than weather, half of any excess earned by Piedmont will go to rate reduction and energy conservation up to $1.5 million per year.

Cooper’s office today filed a request for an extension with the Supreme Court in order to formalize the settlement with Piedmont. The proposed settlement will then need to be approved by the Utilities Commission before it becomes final. If the settlement is approved, Cooper will seek dismissal of his appeal.

“It’s my job to look out for consumers,” said Cooper. “We’ll continue to keep an eye on utility rates.”

 

  Contact:  Noelle Talley (919) 716-6413