During the first of six North Carolina Utilities Commission public hearings allowing North Carolinians to voice opinions about the proposed Progress Energy Carolinas rate increase, community members and customers of the utility company gave testimonies in favor and against the increase on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
The subsidiary of Duke Energy submitted the request to the NCUC on Oct. 12, 2012, to boost annual base revenues by $387 million.
If approved, the 14.2-percent residential increase, which is more than 5-percent higher than the commercial and industrial increase, could raise the bill of a resident using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month by $14.79.
“The largest energy users … are receiving discounted energy and that discounted energy is being paid for by residential users, like myself,” said Matt Collogan, a Wrightsboro resident.
The first three speakers, including Robin Spinks of Wrightsville Beach, said Progress Energy has had positive economic impacts on the community.
“I would hope you would look at it from an economic standpoint and social standpoint, not an emotional standpoint,” said Scott Sullivan, a Wilmington resident.
Several University of North Carolina Wilmington students spoke against the increase for environmental reasons.
The increase would fund projects like the Sutton Plant, a local natural gas-fueled combined cycle plant.
“We are being forced to pay for the destruction of our Earth and the destruction of our health,” Emma Bogdan said. “… A rate hike should not go to fund dirty energy.”
Dr. Alina Szmant, UNCW professor, said there is no such thing as clean coal or clean natural gas.
“I am happy to pay more for energy if it’s clean,” she said, along with a handful of others who spoke.
Some were concerned with the impact of a $15 deficit per month on their lives.
“My average bill is about $100, and I’m pretty prudent about my energy,” said Paul Paskcarosa, a New Hanover County resident.
He said the increase would be $15 he would not be spending at local restaurants, like Front Street Brewery or Sweet and Savory.
Jeff Brooks, Progress Energy Carolinas spokesperson, said the public hearing is an opportunity for the company to gauge what is on customers’ minds. He and the customer care team were present at the hearing to answer questions from customers before and after the hearing, separate from the court record.
“We’re all very interested in what our customers say,” Brooks said. “Certainly we know it’s a tough time for a rate increase for our customers.”
The membership of the current NCUC board that heard the testimonies could change with the pending Senate Bill 10, allowing Gov. Pat McCrory and General Assembly members to appoint new candidates to the commission.