Officials hear from customers after Duke Energy requests rate hike

CHARLOTTE — The North Carolina Utilities Commission held a public hearing about it Thursday night at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Uptown Charlotte.

“The North Carolina Utilities Commission has the opportunity to protect our states most vulnerable communities from this corporate money grab,” said Billie Anderson, a Duke Energy customer.

Duke Energy is requesting to raise power bills over the next three years if approved later this year.

A residential customer whose monthly bill is around $115 would be paying around $20 more each month by 2026 under the proposed rate increase, Duke Energy officials said.

“Instead of investing in clean, renewable energy, our family would be paying more for Duke Energy to expand its use of dirty energy, which exacerbates my son’s asthma,” Anderson said.

The public hearing featured witnesses on the stand who made a case for and against a rate hike. The hearing is one of several to be held in North Carolina.

“With the assistance and collaboration of Duke, Central Piedmont (Community College) will launch a brand-new utility line worker program in late July,” said Marsha Colson, with CPCC.

Corporate partners, including CPCC, the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, and Johnson C. Smith University testified about Duke Energy’s penchant for creating jobs.

“That will lead to the development of a diverse and local workforce of utility line workers,” Colson said.

However, customers say they can’t afford it.

“My neighbors are requesting better services,” said Ronald Ross, a Duke Energy customer. “They are not satisfied with numerous, frequent outages. Some have experienced unexpected outages.”

Ross represents a northwest Charlotte community, which is made up of mostly senior citizens.

“Seniors on fixed incomes and lower incomes and underserved families do not receive sufficient-annual-income increases to cover the financial burden of potentially approved requested rate hikes,” Ross said.

“To accommodate what they want, whether its reliability, solar, battery, we have to make these upgrades to facilitate what they want,” said Bill Norton, Duke Energy spokesman.

VIDEO: Protest against possible Duke Energy hikes in Uptown

If approved, Duke Energy officials said revenue from the rate hike would generate $823 million, which would help fund $4.2 billion in grid infrastructure upgrades, enhance grid security, and enable more renewable energy.

“Of the increase, we’re talking about, 75% of it is for grid improvements to deal with situations just like what that neighbor was talking about,” Norton said.

If the Utilities Commission approves it, this increase would not go into effect until January 2024.

The next public hearing is on July 24 in Winston-Salem.

Written statements can be submitted to the commission, also.

Click here for information on the public hearings.

VIDEO: NC sheriff says Duke Energy is slowing investigation into power grid attacks

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.