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NC regulators approve Duke Energy rate hike

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper says he will appeal a 4.5 percent rate hike for Duke Energy Carolinas approved by state regulators.
    
The North Carolina Utilities Commission approved the increase Tuesday.
    
The rate hike increases to an overall average of 5.1 percent after two years. Regulators say the typical residential electric bill would go up about $7.60 a month in 2015, to a monthly average of $110.
    
The increase is the company's third since 2009. Duke Energy Carolinas serves nearly 2 million customers in North Carolina.
    
Duke Energy Carolinas President Paul Newton says the higher rates are needed to modernize its equipment to meet environmental regulations.
    
Some of the money will be used to retire and replace old plants. Those include a new coal-powered unit near Cliffside and a natural gas fueled plant in Eden.
    
Cooper said Wednesday the commission failed to adequately consider the impact of the rate increase on consumers.
    
"The law requires the Commission to set rates as low as possible, and they haven't done that here," Cooper said. "Just paying lip service to the challenges North Carolinians face in tough economic times is not enough."
    
Cooper appealed Duke Energy Carolina's 2011 rate increase and the North Carolina Supreme Court sent the case back to the utilities commission. The court said the commission did not fully assess the impact of Duke Energy Carolinas' profit margin on low-income customers.
    
The new increase gives the company an additional $205 million. It had initially requested $446 million.
    
Tuesday's order states that the utility cannot seek another rate increase for two years. Duke Energy Carolinas also will donate $10 million in shareholder money to agencies that help low-income customers with their energy bills.

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