AG Cooper will appeal recent Duke Energy Progress rate hike - WNCN: News, Weather

AG Cooper will appeal recent Duke Energy Progress rate hike

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Attorney General Roy Cooper plans to appeal an approved Duke Energy Progress rate hike.

On Thursday, the North Carolina Utilities Commission approved a 7.5 percent increase for customers who get their power from Duke Energy Progress, formerly Progress Energy.

Cooper opposed the rate increase and now plans to appeal the decision.

Cooper  said the Utilities Commission "put utility profits ahead of people.

In an interview, Cooper said, "I think that it's really important that we appeal this decision and go back to Supreme Court to make sure that there is a real analysis of the effect on consumers."

He added, "With the changing economic environment and with consumers still struggling in North Carolina that is not right. We don't think it follows the law. And we're going to appeal it."

The hike is expected to cost the average home an extra $88 a year. The rate increase allows Duke Energy Progress a 10 percent profit margin as it recovers some of the $11 billion invested since the last rate increase in 1987.

"Consumers are paying enough and utilities rates and it's frustrating to them to see continued high allowable profits when struggling families are having to take cuts and having to do with less," he said. "And to see increases in their utilities bill is very frustrating to them."

But Dave Scanzoni with Duke Energy responded to Cooper's statement by saying the company's goal is to provide customers with electricity that's "affordable and reliable."

"The rate increase approved yesterday reflects an investment of about $2.3 billion for plant modernization and other capital improvements at power plants that produce and deliver electricity to 1.3 million households in North Carolina," Scanzoni said.

"The company is retiring older, less-efficient coal plants that lack state-of-the-art emission controls, and replacing them with cleaner, natural gas-fueled plants. Modernizing Duke Energy Progress' power plant fleet is an important investment in North Carolina's environment and economic future."

Many consumers in the Triangle responded with frustration when asked by WNCN about the increase.

"Everything is rising and we don't need higher bills from our power company at this point," said Matt Lively.

"That's almost a month's worth of gas for me," said Amy Huffman.

"I don't think that we deserve every hike and we were promised when this merger happened that there wouldn't be," said Beverly Kirkman.

The Utilities Commission declined to comment, but the commission did explain its decision in a 120-page document.

In that, it says "the Commission finds and concludes, for purposes of this case and after thoroughly and independently reviewing all of the evidence that an ROE [rate increase] of 10.2 percent is just and reasonable based on the evidence concerning changing economic conditions as they affect DEP's customers."

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