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Panel hears Progress Energy case for rate increase

RALEIGH (AP) ó Progress Energy expects the North Carolina utilities board to decide by November whether to approve a proposed 11.5 percent residential rate hike that the company says is needed to pay for higher fuel costs.
The state Utilities Commission heard arguments Monday on whether to let the company raise rates starting in December. In June, the Raleigh-based company filed a petition with the commission to raise rates by 16.2 percent for an average household using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, to about $113 a month.
Earlier this month, Progress Energy agreed to spread the increase over three years after negotiating with the commissionís Public Staff, which represents consumers and industrial customers. If the commission approves, the monthly bill would rise from about $97 to about $108 for a residential customer. Rates would likely increase again in December 2009.
Three customers and a Progress Energy fuel buyer described to the commission the fuel cost increases and how the company calculated how much it would need to raise prices, Progress spokesman Mike Hughes said. He said the company doesnít expect a decision until November.
Progress said it needs to pass along about $203 million in higher fuel costs, Hughes said. The company will spend $1.9 billion in 2008 for coal, natural gas, fuel oil, and uranium to generate electricity in North Carolina and South Carolina, he said. The company burns coal to generate about half the electricity it produces.
The utility, with 1.25 million customers in North Carolina, made a similar fuel-expense filing in South Carolina in April.

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