‘It’s not right’: Duke Energy rate hikes for all NC customers go into effect

CHARLOTTE — Higher rates are going into effect for Duke Energy customers.

Duke Energy Carolinas says customers will see a 0.7% average increase in rates now that regulators have given final approval on its rate request. Duke Energy Progress customers will see rates increase about 4.7%, that utility says.

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The N.C. Utilities Commission issued its final orders approving rates and schedules for each utility Friday. Duke calculated the rates for each customer group from that order and reported them today. They will go into effect on June 1.

The new rates include state and federal tax savings for customers and will remain below the national average, even after adjustments are made to reflect past investments in cleaner, more reliable energy, Duke Energy said in a release.

The increase varies depending on the rate customers pay from an average increase of 3.6% for industrial customers to 4.7% for commercial customers 5.3% for residential customers.

As part of its order, the NCUC approved settlement agreements reached with more than 10 diverse customer and environmental groups around ash basin closure costs, future grid investments and other major components of the 2019 rate request.

“Our investments over the past several years have helped lead the state to cleaner energy sources, while keeping energy affordable and reliable for customers,” said Stephen De May, North Carolina president, Duke Energy. “We look forward to continued collaboration with stakeholders to implement new initiatives that support customers and advance North Carolina’s energy transition.”

Read more here about how the increase works out for different customer classes.

‘You should not need any more money from us’

The increase for the average home is about $1.70 per month.

Those who live in Gaston County’s Belmont community said that is still too much, considering they have been living close to a plant, and for some, closer to coal ash ponds.

“You should not need any more money from us,” resident Lauran Tench said.

Tench said it’s about principal.

“I don’t think I should have to pay a cent to Duke to clean up the mess they made,” she said.

Five years ago, she and her neighbors got word that there were elevated levels of heavy metals in their well water. Tench said she lived near coal ash ponds in Belmont for decades.

Duke was forced to clean up the ash ponds across the state at a cost of $4 billion. They petitioned the state’s Utilities Commission to have the customers pay those costs.

A Duke spokesperson said they entered an agreement with the Attorney General’s Office and the Sierra Club to cut the cost to $3 billion, saving each homeowner $1 a month.

Tench said she and her neighbor drank bottled water for years. They fought to get off the well system and now must pay more money.

“It’s not right,” she said.

Rate impact by customer group

Duke Energy Progress electric rates will increase by an average of 4.7% across all customer groups, effective June 1.

The annualized bill for a typical residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month will rise to $119.83 from the current $113.53 over the next two years.

The specific increase for individual customer groups will vary, depending on the rate they pay. The average rate increase will be 5.3% for residential customers, 4.7% for commercial customers and 3.6% for industrial customers.

Duke Energy said the new rates are reduced by customer savings as a result of federal and state tax reform. As the tax savings are fully deployed to customers, electric rates will adjust after two years and again after five years.

Duke Energy initially requested a significantly larger rate increase to help pay for cleaning up coal ash at its plants, but agreed to a settlement earlier this year that will save customers more than $1.1 billion in costs.

Duke Energy Progress serves 1.4 million households and businesses in central and eastern North Carolina, and in the Asheville region.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

(Watch: Duke Energy rate increase to impact how much you pay in utilities)