RALEIGH — The Center for Biological Diversity and Boone-based Appalachian Voices filed a petition on Oct. 17 to intervene in Duke Energy Carolinas’ application to increase electricity rates in North Carolina, but Blue Ridge Energy said the rate hike won’t affect its customers.
“The groups argued that simply raising rates, without concrete policies to advance the clean energy transition, is wrong for North Carolina, its people and the climate,” an Oct. 17 statement from the center and Appalachian Voices states.
The Center for Biological Diversity, a nationwide conservation nonprofit with an office in Asheville, is representing both entities in their petition.
Duke first filed its notice of a rate application on Aug. 23, with its formal petition coming on Sept. 30. If approved, the rate hike would take place in 2020. The utility says it requested the rate hike to “reduce carbon emissions, strengthen the grid and improve the customer experience.”
“The rate increase would cover costs Duke Energy has incurred on behalf of customers to shift to cleaner energy, improve reliability and grid resiliency and provide more convenience for customers,” Duke stated on Sept. 30.
According to the joint Oct. 17 statement, the increase would be 10.3 percent for residential customers, which differs from the 6.7 percent stated by Duke in a Sept. 30 statement. According to Rory McIlmoil, senior energy analyst at Appalachian Voices, the 10.3 percent is a gross increase, before the effect of tax credits are given to customers.
Blue Ridge Energy, the Lenoir-based electric utility cooperative that serves Watauga, Ashe and part of Avery and Caldwell counties, buys power wholesale from Duke Energy. Spokesperson Renee Whitener said Duke’s case won’t impact its customers.
“We received lower-than-projected wholesale power cost from Duke Energy Carolinas this year,” Whitener said. “This was due to lower cost of natural gas, which is used to generate about 20 percent of our needs. Wholesale power cost makes up almost 60 percent of our costs, so this made a significant impact.”
Duke Energy Carolinas is a Charlotte-based investor-owned utility that provides power directly to most of the state. The petition says that Duke is attempting to force ratepayers to foot the bill for the company’s political lobbying in favor of fossil fuel interests. Along with what the center says are N.C. weak clean energy policies, the rate hike would leave state residents with fewer options to invest in solar energy and worsen the energy burden on low-income communities, the Oct. 17 joint statement said.
“Duke’s filing clearly shows it’s stuck in a 20th-century model of doing business, asking ratepayers to pay for investments that do nothing to transition us to the clean energy economy we need and deserve,” McIlmoil stated in the joint statement. “It’s a last-ditch effort by the monopoly to lock in exorbitant profits even as North Carolinians increasingly want clean, affordable energy.”