AG Cooper will appeal 7.2 percent Duke Energy rate hikeUtilities Commission failed to heed Supreme Court ruling, Cooper says
RALEIGH — Attorney General Roy Cooper will appeal a decision announced late yesterday by the North Carolina Utilities Commission approving higher power bills for Duke Energy customers, a rate hike that was struck down by the state Supreme Court earlier this year.
“This opinion just puts window dressing on a bad decision,” Cooper said. “A thorough examination of the impact on consumers like the Supreme Court directed should result in lower rates.”
The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled on the proposed 7.2 percent rate increase on April 12, ordering the Utilities Commission to determine the impact on consumers before it set an allowable profit margin and agreed to raise rates.
The Utilities Commission initially agreed last year to let Duke Energy raise its customers’ rates by 7.2 percent in order to allow a 10.5 percent profit for the company. Cooper fought the rate increase to the NC Supreme Court, arguing that state law requires that consumers be taken into account when evaluating requests for higher profit margins and rates.
In its ruling, the Court agreed with Cooper’s assessment of the law (NCGS § 62-133). The Court held that the law does not just protect utilities and shareholders and that consumer interests “cannot be measured only indirectly or treated as mere afterthoughts” by the Commission.
Duke Energy this year requested an additional rate increase, on top of the 7.2 percent hike granted yesterday by the Commission, which could raise rates by 4.5 percent for the first two years and then 5.1 percent after that. Cooper is fighting that rate hike along with a 7.5 percent rate increase for Duke Energy Progress, formerly Progress Energy, approved by the Commission earlier this year.
According to an analysis by Moody's, North Carolinians currently pay a higher percentage of their household disposable income for electricity than all but six other states in the nation.