Despite Duke Energy’s reliance on fossil fuels that led to its failure to ensure that its North Carolina customers would have heat and electricity during a brutal cold snap around last Christmas, the company is still asking for the biggest rate hike in history, according to an editorial in The Greensboro News & Record.
As Dan Crawford, the director of governmental relations for the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, put it in his editorial, “If you have a bad day at work, do you storm into your boss’s office and demand a raise? This is what Duke is doing.”
In March, Duke Energy Carolinas asked for the largest rate hike for fuel costs in the company’s history – nearly 17% by next January, Crawford wrote. Duke Energy Carolinas also made a request in January to increase residential rates for some customers by nearly 18% over three years.
Duke Energy Progress is also looking to raise its rates by 16% over the next three years – and that’s in addition to the nearly 10% increase in fuel cost charges it got in 2022.
According to Duke Energy, it paid around $1 billion more in fuel costs last year than they were able to recover from charging its customers. Kendal Bowman, Duke Energy North Carolina’s president, said that “Fuel costs to generate electricity have more than tripled over the last year.” Duke admitted to the fact that most of the rise in fuel costs came from the utility’s use of natural gas (methane – a fossil fuel).
According to Crawford, despite their acknowledgment of the rising cost of methane and the fact that the Christmas blackouts occurred due to failures by its coal and gas plants, the company is still working on a proposed “Carbon Plan” that would see them building more methane-fired power plants.
The new plants would be built as a requirement of House Bill 951, which requires the company “to use the least costly and most reliable source of energy generation.”
“When you consider Duke’s historic rate hike requests and the Christmas blackout — tied to failure by its coal and gas plants — we are getting neither least cost nor most reliable service from Duke’s reliance on fossil fuels,” Crawford wrote.
As previously reported, not only was energy demand at Christmas much higher than projected, which depleted reserves, but energy output was also reduced at two coal-fired plants when instrumentation froze at both units despite being insulated. And Duke couldn’t buy power anywhere, from anyone. Renewable energy sources like solar performed as expected.
The fact that renewable energy performed as expected – and has done so in multiple studies, including one by Duke Energy itself – begs the question: Why are state regulators allowing the utility to continue focusing on burning fossil fuels instead of having them work on building out solar, wind and battery storage?
Hearings will be held throughout North Carolina regarding Duke Energy Progress’s requested rate hike, including virtual options. Customers can also send written statements to the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
Customers who do write to the Utilities Commission should take the opportunity to tell them that North Carolina should look at plans that will provide lower-cost, more reliable, cleaner electricity, “rather than continuing to reward Duke for poor performance and its reliance on expensive, dirty fuels.”