Some consumer advocacy groups are ramping up their fight against Duke Energy's proposed rate hike.
On Thursday night, groups including AARP, Consumers Against Rate Hikes and Greenpeace gathered in the North Davidson area to talk about strategy and planning.
Duke Energy is proposing a residential rate increase of 11.8 percent. For a customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month and currently pays $102.72, the hike would add $14.27 to his or her power bill.
The groups want to prepare people to speak at a public hearing on June 26 held by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which will decide the rate request. Their goal is to get 500 people at the meeting, which is at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse at 6 p.m.
"We're working to help empower folks so that they can get the message that they want to say to Duke Energy," Monica Embrey of Greenpeace said.
Embrey is one of the people who will run training sessions on effective speaking.
She said they will provide information on what the rate hike would pay for, like a new coal plant, Cliffside, that was already built, and improvements that were completed on the Oconee Nuclear Station and McGuire Nuclear Station.
They will also provide a tip sheet. It includes suggestions that speakers provide references for any facts, stress any expertise or special knowledge they might have, bring 10 copies of their comments for commissioners and limit their speeches to three minutes.
Duke Energy spokesperson Lisa Parrish said Duke welcomes input from customers.
"It's an open and transparent process," she said of the hearing. "We value the opportunity to hear what our customers have to say."
Parrish said customers should look at Duke's website for information on how the plants provide more efficient and reliable power.
Some customers who aren't happy with the rate hike, like Laura Burneyko, said the training sounds like a good idea.
"We should be informed," Burneyko said. "I mean, this is what we use to heat our homes with. We pay Duke Energy."
Organizers plan to hold eight to 12 training sessions leading up to the public hearing.