Monday afternoon, it went before the N.C. Utilities Commission -- the board that will ultimately decide if Duke Energy customers have to pay more.
Duke's North Carolina president, Paul Newton, defended an increase, saying, "The company recognizes that regardless of how justified a rate case may be, there is no good time to raise customer rates. The company understands that many of our customers are struggling during these current economic conditions of high unemployment."
But the company is still asking the Utilities Commission permission to raise rates so that Duke can modernize its system and keep investors happy.
The average residential customer would pay $7.60 more per month, phased over three years, and Newton said low-income customers would get help.
He said, "We've agreed to contribute $10 million in shareholder funds to ease the impact of this rate increase."
Groups like Greenpeace and AARP have been protesting the hike and did so again Monday outside the hearing.
Jim Warren's group, N.C. Warn, even hired an expert to testify at the hearing later this week and had a lawyer fighting the rate increase inside the hearing this afternoon.
Warren said, "It's pretty frustrating to see the sausage-making inside the rate system."
Roughly 10 other groups may challenge Duke and parts of the plan, too, including Time Warner Cable, Kroger, the League of Municipalities, and the Attorney General's Office.
The hearing continues Tuesday and could last most of this week. Commissioners should make a decision by September.