Duke Energy asks NC legislators for new options to charge customers for grid, storm costs

Duke Energy asks NC legislators for new options to charge customers for grid, storm costs

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Duke Energy Corp. has played things close to the vest for months. Now there’s a bill in the N.C. General Assembly that will let it ask regulators for annual increases to pay for its proposed, grid-improvement plan in the state that could cost up to $13 billion.

But Duke says the bill is about more than just grid improvement, and will not say if it intends to seek such alternative funding for work on the grid.

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The legislation, Senate Bill 559, allows utilities to ask the N.C. Utilities Commission for alternatives to standard rate cases for a broad range of programs. It does not require the commission to approve them. It is permissive rather than mandatory. And it would not relieve a utility of the requirement of justifying its spending to the commission before charging those costs to customers in rates.

It would, however, allow the utility to recover those costs more quickly than in time-consuming rate cases. It would also assure the utility annual increases in rates as it spent more on any justified costs for the approved projects.

In addition, the bill would allow utilities to securitize major storm costs through the sale of storm recovery bonds. It instructs them to include the charges to each customer for recovering those costs as a separate item on the customer’s bill.

The bill, Senate Bill 559, is bipartisan. Its principal sponsors are Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, Sen. Ralph Hise, the deputy president pro tem and a Republican from Mitchell County, and Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, D­-Wake.

Read the full story for more about its impact.