On March 18, the North Carolina Utilities Commission will make a decision that will affect 1.3 million Progress Energy customers.
The company is proposing a reduced rate hike of 5.7 percent over the next two years and that is not sitting well with some customers.
At a public hearing Wednesday night, Progress Energy customers from all over the state testified for and against the proposed rate hike. Before the hearing, opponents from the AARP, Greenpeace and NC Warn, among others, said if Progress invested more in clean energy, they wouldn't need to charge customers more in the first place.
Jeff Brooks is a spokesperson for Progress Energy Carolinas and said in response to critics, "We absolutely believe energy efficiency is an important part of the equation. We have to invest in it, and we are. We launched more than a dozen new programs since 2009 that have helped our customers save enough power to take in an entire town off the utility grid."
But AARP member Margaret Toman said that's not enough. "These rate hikes, more than anything else, strike fear in me. Outrage, but fear."
Toman said she's deep in the red, unable to find a job and take care of her mother who has advanced dementia, at the same time. She says her checking account is currently in a negative balance.
Toman said she pays more than $300 per month on her Progress Energy bill and that a rate hike would put her deeper in financial trouble.
WNCN asked Progress Energy for their reaction to Toman's interview. They said they currently have resources and programs in place to help folks in financial trouble. Progress energy says if the commission approves the rate hike, it will take effect early June.