Duke Energy Carolinas requests rate increase for millions in North Carolina

RALEIGH — Duke Energy is looking to raise rates on customers in North Carolina once again.

On the heels of rising attacks on the power grid and rolling blackouts caused by cold winter weather, the company is proposing a gradual rate increase to fund billions of dollars of infrastructure improvements.

Duke Energy Carolinas asked North Carolina regulators on Thursday to let it raise residential electricity rates by nearly 18% over three years as part of a broad request to raise revenues from its 2 million customers in the state.

Profits from the rate case initiated by the state Utilities Commission -- the first initiated by the Duke Energy subsidiary since 2019 -- would go in part to make electric grid reliability and security improvements to help collect more power from renewable sources, the company said.

Duke Energy Carolinas’ coverage area spans much of central and western Carolina, including Charlotte, Durham and the Triad.

Channel 9′s Madison Carter looked into the proposal. She learned that while Duke can charge customers to increase reliability and security, it can’t raise rates to pay any fines faced from past failures.

The rate case is similar to one filed in October by Duke Energy Progress, which covers customers in eastern and central North Carolina -- including those in Raleigh, Fayetteville and Wilmington — as well as in and near Asheville. Both companies are subsidiaries of Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp.

Thursday’s proposal, with annual increases in early 2024, 2025 and 2026, would result in overall cumulative rate increases of 15.7% and 17.9% for residential customers.

A typical Duke Energy Carolinas residential customer would see their monthly bills rise from $115.01 per month to $127.55 starting next Jan. 1, with smaller increases in successive years to $134.63, according to a news release.

That’s about a $12 increase in year one followed by about $3 in hikes in following years. By 2026, the average customer would be paying about $20 more.

The proposal would result in over $820 million in additional net retail revenues by 2026, according to figures from Duke.

As with the Duke Energy Progress case, Thursday’s proposal also includes a new program for low-income customers to reduce their bills and new energy efficiency programs offered to all customers that can lead to savings on bills.

The utilities commission, with its seven members chosen by the governor, decides whether to approve or modify rate requests after holding a hearing and receiving comments from advocacy groups, customers and the commission’s public staff.

Typically, the rates the commission determines to be necessary are lower than Duke’s proposal and the two parties settle in the middle.

The whole process will take about 11 months, so an increase wouldn’t occur until January of 2024.

The rate requests come after Duke Energy substations in central North Carolina were damaged by gunfire in early December, knocking out power to 45,000 customers in Moore County. And hundreds of thousands of customers of the two subsidiaries in North and South Carolina were subjected to rolling blackouts on Dec. 24 during extremely cold weather as power demand soared but supply dwindled.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

VIDEO: Duke Energy says it won’t pay liability claims related to December rolling blackouts

Madison Carter

Madison Carter, wsoctv.com

Madison is an investigative reporter and anchor for Channel 9.