Triad Protest Groups Want Residents to Speak Out Against New Duke Energy Rate Hikes
Grassroots groups say hardship stories from Triad residents can fight utility price increases.
Duke Energy has requested the North Carolina Utilities Commission approve a 9.7 percent utility rate increase that would go into effect early this fall. The company services about 1.9 million households and businesses in North Carolina. For the average residential customer, this will translate into a monthly increase of $14.27 per 1,000 kilowatt hour. Several grassroots groups oppose the rate hike and are organizing Triad residents to protest. Thursday evening, June 6, people are invited to the Community Arts Cafe in Winston-Salem. They’ll learn how to communicate compelling personal stories illustrating why higher utility rates will be a hardship. Sammy Slade is a community organizer with NC Warn. He says instead of increasing rates, Duke Energy should invest more money to help residential customers better weatherize their homes. “In North Carolina, we put out a study that if Duke Energy invested $20 million a year for ten years, we could weatherize all low income homes in North Carolina. This would reduce the pressure to build new power plants.” Slade also contends Duke should spend more money developing wind and solar power in the Tar Heel state.But Duke Energy spokeswoman Lisa Parrish says the rate hike is the third in a series of increases the company said it would need to pay for needed upgrades. “They (customers) are paying for our new Dan River Cycle Station in Eden. It uses natural gas that is clean and affordable. It does the job of three less efficient coal plants that we can now retire. The capitol cost is $673 million. We have Cliffside Steam Station Unit 6, an 825 megawatt coal plant that has state of the art emission controls. It removes 99% of sulfur dioxide, 90 percent of nitrogen oxides and 90percent of mercury, and these upgrades cost $863 million,” explains Parrish. “We also have installed new safety and security measures at our Oconee Nuclear Station in Oconee County, S.C. to continue to protect it from extreme conditions or a natural disaster. Capital costs are $448 million. And finally the other big part of these rate increases is for upgrades made to McGuire Nuclear Station in Mecklenburg County. We’ve made it more efficient in the carbon-free electricity it produces. These upgrades cost $203 million." Parrish also says Duke Energy offers several programs to assist low-income customers with their utility bills. Since 2010, Duke Energy has increased rates twice, adding about $12 to the average consumer utility bill. In South Carolina, Duke Energy has also requested a customer rate increase.On June 19, the North Carolina Utilities Commission will hold a public hearing at the Forsyth County Court House in Winston-Salem. It begins at 7 p.m. and will be in courtroom 1C. The courthouse is located downtown at 200 N. Main Street. Then on July 8 in Raleigh, the commission will hold a closed evidentiary hearing at Dobbs Building. Members are expected to render a decision regarding the requested rate hike by early fall.