Fall hearings set as Duke Energy seeks 15 percent rate hike

By Emery P. Dalesio, AP Business Writer

Utilities regulators plan to hear from consumers and experts this fall about whether to allow a 15 percent increase in the electricity bills of 1.3 million North Carolina customers.

 

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Utilities regulators plan to hear from consumers and experts this fall about whether to allow a 15 percent increase in the electricity bills of 1.3 million North Carolina customers.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission on Thursday released a schedule for September and October hearings as it considers Duke Energy Progress' request to add $18 more per month to the typical household bill of $105. The subsidiary of the country's largest electric company operates in much of eastern North Carolina and around Asheville.

The commission plans to hear public comments in Rockingham, Raleigh, Asheville, Snow Hill and Wilmington, then grill experts in Raleigh on Oct. 16.

Duke Energy wants an extra $477 million a year, with 11 percent return on a measure commonly described as potential profit margin.

The schedule was released the same day that Duke Energy said it doesn't want to turn over documents about its coal ash management requested by Attorney General Josh Stein, who is monitoring the company's rate request.

Stein asked Duke Energy to provide information explaining its methods and standards for storing coal ash over the past 13 years. Stein also asked whether the company has any financial liability from turning coal ash, a byproduct from burning coal for power that contains some toxic substances, into fill material used in concrete and other products.

Duke Energy's lawyers responded in a regulatory filing that Stein's request for documents describing coal ash storage practices is overbroad, while the liability question is between the company and its lawyers.

The utility's rate increase includes asking North Carolina regulators for permission to pass along to customers coal ash cleanup costs of about $977 million over five years.

The Duke Energy Progress rate increase marks the first time the company has asked for permission to pass along to North Carolina consumers some of the utility's estimated $5.1 billion cleanup costs.

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