Editorial: Let regulators hear you roar

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Public hearings concerning Duke Energyís proposed 17 percent rate increase continue through Nov. 28, and customers should give the state Utilities Commission an earful.
Such a large rate increase would deliver a hard blow to individuals, businesses and agencies trying to pull out of the recession
First things first. Hereís the remaining schedule of hearings:
Tonight, 7 p.m., McDowell County Courthouse, Marion.
Thursday, Nov. 3, 7 p.m., Durham City Hall, Durham.
Monday, Nov. 28, 1 p.m., Commission Hearing Room 2115, Dobbs Building, 430 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh.
Brett Carter, president of Duke Energy North Carolina, talked about the increase when he visited Dukeís Buck Steam Station in August. Duke needs the increase, he said, to reimburse $4.8 billion the company has spent since 2009 modernizing plants and complying with environmental regulations. That includes a $600 million investment at Buck to phase out coal and use natural gas and steam to create electricity. Duke would still be charging less than many other power companies in the country.
Still, the increases that would kick in next February ó 17 percent for homes and 14 percent for businesses ó follow a nearly 8 percent increase that began last year. Ouch.
We depend on the jobs and electricity Duke generates here. It literally keeps businesses and homes running. But the shock of a 17 percent jump in power bills would wreak havoc on budgets. Duke planned this expansion and requested the rate hike, but consumers would have to pony up with little warning and no recourse.
Duke has a monopoly in its service area, and electricity is a necessity, so the laws of supply and demand donít exactly apply. With poverty growing and unemployment still high, 17 percent is more than the market can bear. If you agree, let the N.C. Utilities Commission know.
Written statements about the proposed rate increase can be sent to the N.C. Utilities Commission, 4325 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4325.