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Duke Energy executive defends proposed rate hike

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Paul Newton Paul Newton
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Duke Energy's North Carolina president answered questions Monday about a possible rate increase for more than one million customers. 

Paul Newton faced the State Utilities Commission on Monday during the first day of evidentiary hearings to consider whether rate changes are necessary.

Duke wants to increase rates fore 1.1 million Progress Energy customers in North Carolina by a total of about 5.7 percent.  The company wants a 4.7 percent increase to take effect in one year, followed by an additional 1 percent increase in the second year.  But Duke also wants to cut rates for some industrial customers by about 4 percent as a part of a 5-year pilot program following years of declining industrial revenues.

"The company proposed this rider as a means to retain jobs and better the economy of North Carolina," Newton said.

But critics say the increase will allow Duke Energy to maintain a large profit margin at a time when families continues to struggle.  Duke estimates the increase will result in a 10.2 percent return on equity for investors.

"They're trying to give big users a decrease while they're trying to jack up small users, families and small businesses by over 10 percent," said Jim Warren, executive vice president of NC Warn.

NC Warn is an advocacy group that aims to promote clean energy.

Duke originally wanted a more than 14 percent increase on residential customers, but reached a settlement with the utilities commission.  As part of that settlement, Duke will also set aside $20 million for job training and to help low-income families pay their electric bills.  

The evidentiary hearings are expected to last for several days with a decision on the increase coming sometime later on.

Derick Waller

Derick is a reporter for WNCN covering crime, education, politics and just about everything in between. He has a knack for adapting to any story and consistently delivers information quickly across multiple platforms. More>>

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