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Last updated: September 26. 2013 2:44PM - 569 Views

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The North Carolina Utilities Commission on Tuesday approved a rate increase for Duke Energy.


Rates will go up by 4.5 percent for two years, rising to 5.1 percent after that for Duke’s customers in western North Carolina and western portions of the Triangle.


The increase gives Duke a 10.2 percent return on equity and an extra $235 million in annual revenue.


Paul Newton, president for Duke’s operations in North Carolina, said he was pleased with the utilities commission’s approval.


“This decision reflects a balance between the needs of our company and those of our customers,” Newton said in a news release. “This increase is critical to the company’s modernization plan to address increasingly stringent environmental regulations, and also to retire and replace aging power plants.”


After September 2015, the bill for an average residential customer will increase about $8 monthly.


In February, Duke had asked state regulators to raise electric rates by an average of 9.7 percent, which would have brought in an extra $446 million in revenue.


Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday that he would appeal the increase to the North Carolina Supreme Court, saying that the Utilities Commission continues to ignore consumers when setting electric rates.


“The order approving this rate hike talks a lot about consumers but doesn’t really consider their interests,” Cooper said in a statement. “Just paying lip service to the challenges North Carolinians face in tough economic times is not enough.”


The higher rates approved by the Commission yesterday comes on top of a 7.2 percent rate hike for Duke Energy customers put in place earlier this year, which Cooper fought all the way to the North Carolina Supreme Court, winning the ruling that set a new precedent for utility rate cases.


“The law requires the Commission to set rates as low as possible, and they haven’t done that here,” Cooper said. “The top court in the state agreed with us that consumers must be taken into account when deciding the utility’s profit margin.”


Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or email at agonzalez@civitasmedia.com


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