• Duke Energy's $13B initiative could bring higher bills to customers

    By: Liz Foster


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Duke Energy customers will likely see higher bills after the company implements a $13 billion initiative aimed at reducing power outages.

    As of Wednesday, hundreds of families in north Charlotte were still without power two days after the remnants of Hurricane Irma blew through the area.

    "Things that you take for granted normally, you can't do," a resident told Channel 9.

    Many in the Hidden Valley neighborhood are concerned about elderly residents who rely on oxygen and other medical devices.

    "I wish they'd just hurry up. I just can't take no more of this," Barbara Branham said.

    Crews were in the neighborhood Wednesday working to restore power. Duke Energy has a more long-term plan to cut the number of outages in storms, and how long people are stuck without power. The “Power Forward” initiative is going to cost $13 billion in North Carolina.  There will be $1 billion alone spent in Mecklenburg County.

    "Let's face it, today's electric grid was built over 100 years ago, but it's being taxed like never before," Duke Energy spokeswoman Paige Layne said.

    The plan calls for spending:

    • Almost $5 billion to bury thousands of miles of overhead lines underground.
    • $3.5 billion to retrofit transformers and replace old cables.
    • $2.2 billion on improving substations and transmission lines.
    • $1.2 billion to connect customers to a self-optimizing grid, that can identify and correct problems automatically and more.

    Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster asked Layne if the cost of these investments could be passed along to customers. 

    "Yes,” Layne replied. “The cost of the grid investment, capital costs, anything we do, any investment we make in electrical infrastructure, power plants, to deliver electricity to our customer safely and affordably, that goes into the rates the customers pay."

    Duke Energy does not know yet how much the increase for customers may be or how soon bills will go up. State regulators also have to approve rate changes.

    "We’re going to have to pay for this," Branham said.

    Duke Energy is still figuring out exactly which neighborhoods will get power lines moved underground. Work is expected to start next year.

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