Dozens protest Duke Energy rate hike

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.,None - The public got a chance to comment on Duke Energy's request for what would be its largest rate increase in North Carolina in at least 20 years.

A public hearing was held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center on Duke's request to raise rates by about 20 percent for most of its residential customers. If the North Carolina Utilities Commission allows the increase, monthly bills for typical residential customers would rise from $95 to about $113, starting in February.

Consumer advocates, small towns and some commercial customers have challenged the increase.

Duke said it needs about $5 billion to replace its outdated coal and natural gas plants.

Duke spokesman Tim Gause said the money is "to reinvest, to retool, and to deliver on its promises that we've made to our customer and that is clean, affordable, reliable energy for decades to come."

Duke customer Elizabeth Kincaid said, "I stay awake at night because I hate the unfairness in all this."

If the state approves the hike, the rate change would take effect in February 2012. But there are four more public hearings across the state first.

Duke Energy is in the process of merging with Progress Energy. Progress is also supposed to ask for an increase. Eyewitness News asked if customers will get hit twice. Duke says no, that the two companies will not blend their rates. Duke customers will still get Duke bills based on the approved rate.